Torts I, Pages 189–192

Boyce v. Brown

Supreme Court of Arizona, 1938

Facts:

Plaintiffs hired defendant, a physician, to reduce a fracture of Mrs. Boyce's ankle. He did this by cutting at the fracture, bringing the broken fragments into position, and using a metal screw to permanently fix them together. Defendant followed up with meeting until the fracture was healed, at which point there was no more service by him. This was not the approved standard to treat a fractured bone. Seven years later, Mrs. Boyce contacted defendant, complaining that her ankle was hurting quite considerably. He taped the ankle and filed an arch support that he had previously made so that it would be less sharp. A week later, he removed the bandage, but her ankle merely grew worse for two years, at which point she visited defendant again, who just inspected her ankle again. Plaintiff then visited Dr. Kent of Mesa, who did an x-ray of the ankle, which showed necrosis in the bone around the screw. Dr. Kent removed the screw, effecting a recovery.

Procedural History:

Judge gave an instructed verdict for the defendant on the ground that there was no competent evidence.

Issue:

Was there sufficient evidence to sustain a judgment in favor of the plaintiffs?

Plaintiff's Argument:

It was negligent to not x-ray the ankle.

Defendant's Argument:

It was reasonable to merely perform a visual inspection of the ankle and wrap it.

Rule:

Medical professionals can be held liable for malpractice if they do something that violates the recognized standard of good medical practice in the community.

Reasoning:

It was clearly better for an x-ray to be done, but the only evidence to that is that Dr. Kent says he would have done it personally and that the plaintiffs think it should have been done in standard care. One doctor does not set the standard of good medical practice however, and laypeople cannot accurately tell when x-rays are required. There is therefore not enough evidence.

Holding:

No, there was not sufficient evidence of negligence. Judgment affirmed.


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