Stickleman v. Synhorst, 48012

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Citation52 N.W.2d 504,243 Iowa 872
Docket NumberNo. 48012,48012
Decision Date01 April 1952

Leon W. Powers, of Denison, Oliver P. Bennett and John Fletcher, of Mapleton, and James L. Bennett, of Des Moines, for appellant.

Bradshaw, Fowler, Proctor & Fairgrave, of Des Moines, for appellees.

GARFIELD, Justice.

The principal question for decision is the sufficiency of the evidence of claimed negligence of defendant Dr. Dorner in injecting oil into plaintiff's trachea. At the close of plaintiff's testimony the trial court held it was insufficient for submission to the jury. We disagree. Of course plaintiff is entitled to the most favorable construction of which the evidence is fairly susceptible. Wilson v. Corbin, 241 Iowa 593, 596, 41 N.W.2d 702, 704, and citations.

Defendant Dr. Synhorst advised plaintiff, a maiden lady, 39 at time of trial, to have one of her breasts removed. As a preliminary it was decided plaintiff's lungs should be 'mapped'--that is X-rayed after injecting into the trachea an opaque, oily substance which better reveals the bronchial tubes. Dr. Synhorst conferred with his associate, codefendant Dr. Dorner, regarding the lung mapping and the latter undertook to do it. Plaintiff with her mother went to a hospital on Wednesday morning, January 19, 1949, for the lung mapping.

Dr. Dorner attempted to inject the oily substance directly into the trachea with a hypodermic needle. This is a recognized method although the oil is frequently dropped through the mouth without making an opening in the wall of the trachea. When Dr. Dorner jabbed the needle into plaintiff's throat he said, 'I have missed.' He withdrew the needle and remarked, 'Maybe I should do it the other way,' but added, 'I guess I will try one more.' He then injected the needle into plaintiff's throat a second time. This time Dr. Dorner hit the trachea and plaintiff felt the oil gurgle down into her lungs. Two openings in plaintiff's throat were visible.

Plaintiff went to her apartment from the hospital and immediately started to bleed profusely. Dr. Dorner was called and came to the apartment about 11:30 the same morning, saw the bleeding and said if he had known plaintiff was going to do that he would have kept her in the hospital. He advised use of an ice pack on the throat and that plaintiff lie flat on her back. The profuse bleeding continued, however, and about 7:30 that evening plaintiff was returned to the hospital by a young doctor sent to the apartment by Dr. Dorner.

About 2 p. m. Thursday Dr. Dorner and two throat specialists procured by him took plaintiff to an operating room, examined her throat and performed some kind of an operation. About 7 p. m. Thursday plaintiff was again taken to the operating room, her throat was cut open and another operation was performed by one of the same throat specialists. Plaintiff continued to bleed and about 1:30 a. m. Friday was taken to the operating room a third time where she was given a general anaesthetic and a third operation was performed by one of the throat specialists.

During this period plaintiff was given transfusions of four pints of blood. She narrowly escaped bleeding to death. The two defendants (Drs. Synhorst and Dorner) and the two throat specialists came together to see plaintiff the following Sunday and one of the specialists said, referring to himself, 'It took the old plumber to stop the leak.' Plaintiff remained in the hospital over two weeks and at home about three weeks. She continues to suffer considerable discomfort from her throat and one of the operations left a scar upon it. Her expense for hospital, doctors and nurses was $632.

A doctor connected with the hospital testifies the method of injecting the oil followed by Dr. Dorner, when properly executed, is safe; the diameter of the trachea is roughly that of a man's index finger; the trachea is a semi-rigid tube just below the Adam's apple which most people can feel; its purpose is to permit air to pass into the lungs; there are several important arteries and veins in the neck that carry a considerable quantity of blood.

A few days after the last operation upon plaintiff, Dr. Dorner told her he had to operate on a man's lungs the next day and 'I don't know whether I can perform that operation after the mess I made out of you.' About the time of the last operation Dr. Dorner said to plaintiff's mother and aunt he had done the same kind of lung mapping operation hundreds of times and never had anything like this happen before. In February, 1949, Dr. Dorner told plaintiff, 'Of course you won't owe me anything for that lung mapping.' Plaintif replied, 'For goodness sakes, I wouldn't think so after what you have done to me.' To that the doctor made no response.

Defendants first argue in this court, although not strenuously, Dr. Synhorst is entitled to an affirmance in any event because it is said he is not liable for any negligence of Dr. Dorner. No such contention was made in the lower court in the motion to direct or otherwise and defendants may not raise it for the first time in this court. The ruling on the motion to direct will not be upheld here on a ground not asserted in the trial court. Gross v. Hocker, Iowa, 51 N.W.2d 466, 468, 469, and citations. We may add, however, without setting out the evidence on which our conclusion is based, a jury question is presented as to the liability of Dr. Synhorst for the claimed negligence of his codefendant.

There is ample evidence that in attempting to inject the hypodermic needle into plaintiff's trachea Dr. Dorner first missed that organ. His statement, 'I have missed,' clearly means he had missed the trachea. The needle, however, was injected into plaintiff's throat. The finding is warranted it was negligent for an experienced surgeon like Dr. Dorner to miss with a hypodermic needle an object of such size and obvious location as plaintiff's trachea.

As defendants say in argument, all grounds of their motion to direct raise the proposition there was insufficient evidence of negligence. We are clear such contention cannot be sustained. The motion to direct does not assert, except perhaps inferentially, the testimony was insufficient to support a finding their negligence was the proximate cause of plaintiff's injury--the excessive bleeding and its consequences. Defendants may have intended to raise that contention. In any event, we think the issue of proximate cause was also for the jury.

There is much evidence plaintiff started to bleed profusely soon after the two openings were made in her throat. As stated, there is expert testimony several important arteries and veins are in the throat and they carry a considerable quantity of blood. Indeed these are facts of common knowledge. To cut one's throat is commonly regarded...

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25 cases
  • John Rooff & Sons, Inc. v. Winterbottom, 49203
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • November 12, 1957
    ...are committed to the rule that a directed verdict will not be upheld on a ground not asserted in the trial court. Stickleman v. Synhorst, 243 Iowa 872, 876, 52 N.W.2d 504, 507. See, also, Gross v. Hocker, 243 Iowa 291, 296, 51 N.W.2d 466, 468-469, and citations; American Mutual Liability In......
  • Anderson v. Bristol, Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Iowa
    • March 25, 2013
    ...reasonably probable, not merely possible, and more probable than any other theory based thereon.’ ”) (quoting Stickleman v. Synhorst, 243 Iowa 872, 52 N.W.2d 504, 507 (Iowa 1952)); Bradshaw v. Iowa Methodist Hosp., 251 Iowa 375, 101 N.W.2d 167, 170 (Iowa 1960) (explaining that “a possibilit......
  • Bradshaw v. Iowa Methodist Hospital
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • February 9, 1960
    ...of laymen, and to require only common knowledge and experience to understand, expert testimony is not necessary. Stickleman v. Synhorst, 243 Iowa 872, 879, 52 N.W.2d 504, 508, and citations; Daiker v. Martin, 250 Iowa 75, 91 N.W.2d 747, 751; Annotation, 141 A.L.R. 5, Plaintiff argues this i......
  • Bryant v. Rankin
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eighth Circuit
    • October 19, 1972
    ...based thereon. It is not necessary that the proof be conclusive or exclude every other suggested or possible cause." Stickleman v. Synhorst, supra, 52 N.W. at 507. In this case, the evidence may have shown that it was possible that the failure to diagnose and treat the infection contributed......
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