Strict Medical Liability: Condition Abnormality
EC April 29th, 2015, No. 369473
In its judgment on the 29th of April 2015, the State Council found that in case of surgery, the responsibility of the health workforce can only be accepted in the event of misconduct and that compensation under ONIAM can only be retained in the event of abnormal consequences which are significantly more severe than those for which the patient was exposed to in the absence of treatment.
In this case, the plaintiffs had appealed against the judgment of the Court of Appeals (CA) of Paris, which had dismissed their claim for compensation against AP-HP (Public Assistance Hospital of Paris) and ONIAM (National Compensation from Medical Accidents, Iatrogenic Diseases and Nosocomial Infections).
This compensation claim resulted from injuries suffered after the death of a relative of the applicants, the victim of a traffic accident who died after surgery. The death occurred following the displacement of the catheter maintaining the circulatory system of the patient, which caused a shutdown.
Concerning the fault liability of the AP-HP, the EC first recalls that in accordance with Article L.1142-1 of the public health code, the responsibility of health workers can only be engaged for acts resulting from a fault. The CA considered that the catheter movement was not the product of medical negligence, because the anesthesiologist provided that during the procedure, the patient’s vital signs were good. The EC confirms the findings of the Court of Appeals, rejecting any responsibility for misconduct allegedly committed by the AP-HP. Regarding the repair of compensation under ONIAM, the EC recalls that it is granted only when the medical or accidental infection that lead to the death of the patient under care resulted from acts or diagnoses that were “abnormal” consequences for that patient. The EC states that the condition of abnormality by saying that the consequences must be recognized as “significantly more serious than those that the patient was exposed to in a manner sufficiently probable to qualify as abnormal.”
In this case, the EC considered that this condition of abnormality was not fulfilled because although the catheter “favored the death of the patient”, the death of the patient is largely a result of the serious condition in which she found herself following the traffic accident and a cardiovascular disease from which she suffered.
Consequently, the Council of State rejected the appeal on the grounds that the applicants had not provided any argument for declaring the decision of the CA unfounded.