Morrison v. MacNamara

407 A.2d 555 (D.C. 1979)



The elements which govern ordinary negligence actions are also applicable in actions for professional negligence. The plaintiff bears the burden of presenting evidence which establishes the applicable standard of care, demonstrates that this standard has been violated, and develops a causal relationship between the violation and the harm complained of. In negligence actions the standard of care by which the defendant's conduct is measured is often stated as that degree of care which a reasonably prudent person would have exercised under the same or similar circumstances. Accordingly, this standard of care, which evaluates a defendant's conduct against that conduct which is reasonable under the circumstances, is also applicable in the law of professional negligence.


The patient was injured after he fell during the administration of a urethral smear test while in a standing position at a nationally certified medical laboratory. In his medical malpractice action against the technician, the patient introduced expert testimony providing that the national standard of care required patients to be a sitting position while the test was being administered, and the technician introduced expert testimony that the local standard normally included the standing position. The lower court instructed the jury on the local standard of care and the assumption of risk doctrine, resulting in an adverse decision against the patient. The patient appealed, contending that it was error to instruct the jury on the local standard of care and the assumption of risk doctrine. The court reversed the decision finding that the lower court erred in instructing the jury on the local standard of care and the assumption of risk doctrine.


Whether the trial court erred in denying the requested jury instruction that the standard of care to which appellees should be held is a national standard as opposed to a local one.




The court held that the standard of care for medical professionals was measured by the national standard because health providers were trained by a national standard. The court also held that a patient could not assume the risk of negligent treatment because the patient lacked the expertise to ascertain the risks and voluntarily consent to the procedure.

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