Bowie by Bowie v. Hearn, 0931

Decision Date19 February 1987
Docket NumberNo. 0931,0931
Citation355 S.E.2d 550,292 S.C. 223
CourtSouth Carolina Court of Appeals
PartiesChad E. BOWIE, a minor by his Guardian ad Litem Pamela BOWIE, Respondent, v. Henry B. HEARN, IV, Appellant. . Heard

Cary C. Doyle, of Doyle & O'Rourke, Anderson, for appellant.

J. Marvin Mullis, Jr., and Carl N. Lundberg, Columbia, for respondent.

PER CURIAM:

Appellant, Henry B. Hearn, IV, appeals from a jury verdict awarding respondent, Chad E. Bowie, a minor by his guardian-ad-litem, Pamela Bowie, $18,000.00 in this medical malpractice action. We reverse.

In an action at law, tried by a jury, our jurisdiction extends only to the correction of errors at law. Jones v. Sun Publishing Company, Inc., 278 S.C. 12, 292 S.E.2d 23 (1982).

On September 14, 1981, Dr. Hearn, an obstetrician-gynecologist, delivered Chad Bowie by a caesarean section operation. In making the incision, Dr. Hearn cut the baby's cheek. As a result of the cut, approximately two centimeters in length, the minor-plaintiff has a small scar on his cheek. In August of 1984, this action was brought alleging the baby's cheek was cut as a result of Dr. Hearn's negligence. Dr. Hearn admitted he cut the cheek, but denied any negligence, asserting such a laceration is a normal risk of a caesarean section procedure. At trial, Dr. Hearn's timely motions for a nonsuit and a directed verdict were denied. At the close of trial the jury awarded the minor-plaintiff $18,000.00 in actual damages.

We hold the trial court erred in submitting the case to the jury because the minor-plaintiff failed to present required expert testimony to allow the jury to decide whether Dr. Hearn was negligent.

A plaintiff in a medical malpractice action must present sufficient evidence to meet the two prong test set out in Cox v. Lund, 286 S.C. 410, 334 S.E.2d 116, (1985), and affirmed in Pederson v. Gould, 288 S.C. 141, 341 S.E.2d 633 (1986). This two prong test requires the plaintiff to:

(1) Present evidence of the generally recognized practices and procedures which would be exercised by competent practitioners in a defendant doctor's field of medicine under the same or similar circumstances; AND

(2) Present evidence that the defendant doctor departed from the recognized and generally accepted standards, practices and procedures in the manner alleged by the Plaintiff.

Pederson, 341 S.E.2d at 634 (quoting Cox v. Lund, 334 S.E.2d at 118). The Plaintiff is required to use expert testimony to establish both of these prongs unless the subject matter is such that the common knowledge and experience of the jury is sufficient to evaluate the conduct of the doctor. Pederson, 341 S.E.2d at 634.

We first consider whether damage to the baby during a caesarean section delivery is a proper subject matter for the common knowledge exception. We hold it is not. See Pederson, 341 S.E.2d at 634 (a vaginal hysterectomy found to be a significant surgical procedure and not proper for the common knowledge exception).

A caesarean section is a serious operation. Its complexity is in no way diminished by the fact it is a "common" procedure. Many very complex and difficult surgical procedures are performed daily. The following passage from Gynecology and Obstetrics, Volume 3, Revised Edition, 1985, was read into the record at trial:

Caesarean Section, despite its relative safety insofar as birth trauma is concerned, can still result in significant injury. The most common is laceration by the scalpel at the time of the uterine incision. Labor and delivery are difficult and dangerous for the fetus and the potential for mechanical injury is great.

The passage then instructs doctors to be very careful and to be certain "... there is no safer way for both mother and infant to achieve an injury free delivery." The record reveals Dr. Hearn first attempted to deliver the baby normally. When this failed, Dr. Hearn attempted delivery with forceps. Dr. Hearn abandoned this effort when the baby's head "failed to turn with rotation, which implies ... there was a lot of resistance." Dr. Hearn concluded continuing with the forceps could potentially damage the baby and, thus, he elected to perform a caesarean section.

According to the record a caesarean section is typically accomplished with a series of progressively deepening incisions. Here, the procedure was made more difficult by several factors, including...

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5 cases
  • Fletcher v. Med. Univ. of South Carolina, 4732.
    • United States
    • South Carolina Court of Appeals
    • 17 Diciembre 2010
    ...of negligence in the absence of any evidence as to how the physicians deviated from the standard of care. Bowie v. Hearn, 292 S.C. 223, 355 S.E.2d 550 (Ct.App.1987) ( Bowie I ), addresses this very point. This case was reversed based on the particular facts presented, but the reasoning empl......
  • Fletcher v. Med. Univ. Of South Carolina
    • United States
    • South Carolina Court of Appeals
    • 1 Septiembre 2010
    ...of negligence in the absence of any evidence as to how the physicians deviated from the standard of care. Bowie v. Hearn, 292 S.C. 223, 355 S.E.2d 550 (Ct. App. 1987) (Bowie I), addresses this very point. This case was reversed based on the particular facts presented, but the reasoning empl......
  • Dibernardo v. Carolina Cardiology Assocs.
    • United States
    • South Carolina Court of Appeals
    • 13 Febrero 2019
    ...standards, practices, and procedures was the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries and damages); Bowie v. Hearn, 292 S.C. 223, 227, 355 S.E.2d 550, 552 (Ct. App. 1987) ("A doctor is not an insurer of health and negligence may not be inferred."), rev'd on other grounds, 294 S.C. 344, 3......
  • Dibernardo v. Carolina Cardiology Associates, PA
    • United States
    • South Carolina Court of Appeals
    • 13 Febrero 2019
    ... ... Bowie v. Hearn, 292 S.C. 223, 227, 355 S.E.2d 550, ... 552 (Ct. App. 1987) ... ...
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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