FOURNET, Chief Justice.
Lawrence A. Uter, individually and as natural tutor of his minor daughter, Candace C. Uter, instituted suit to recover judgment for damages suffered by her, and also for expenses incurred by him, as a result of the alleged malpractice and negligence of the defendants
On June 8, 1961, Dr. Campanella was contacted by the family to discuss when the corrective surgery could be performed, and a few days later he was notified to schedule the surgery for June 15, 1961, in order that the daughter would recover from it in time to enter the fall semester at college. Miss Uter entered Our Lady of the Lake Hospital on June 14, 1961, where the surgery was performed by Dr. Campanella, assisted by his associate Dr. Richard B. Means. A couple of hours after the operation was completed, Dr. Campanella departed on a pre-arranged two-week vacation, leaving his associates Drs. Means and Bannerman in charge of the post-operative care.
The surgery was apparently a success in so far as it remedied the back knee defect, but it left Miss Uter with a total temporary paralysis of the peroneal nerves of her right leg, although this condition improved to the extent that the normal functions of the peroneal nerve system were restored with the exception of the deep branch of this nerve, which is permanently impaired. Thus Miss Uter has what is commonly known as a "drop foot."
As a basis for recovery plaintiffs alleged that Dr. Campanella departed on his vacation without notifying the Uters of his intention to do so; and, further, alleged specific acts of negligence consisting of: (a) improperly cleansed and sterilized hospital instruments and facilities, (b) improper surgical incision and operation, (c) improperly applied cast and failure to cut the cast soon enough to relieve pressure and swelling, (d) failure to administer preventive swelling medication soon enough, and (e) performance of the operation when the patient's susceptibility to infection was greatest, with no effort made to build up her resistance prior to undertaking the operation. Alternatively, they alleged that the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur applied.
All defendants denied any negligence or liability on their part, the doctors and their insurer contending they were possessed of the required skill and competence to handle the case and that they used reasonable care and diligence along with their best judgment in applying that skill and care. The hospital and their insurer averred the hospital and facilities were as sterile and well kept as any in the community or locality, and that their employees were free from any negligence.
The district judge, relying upon the pronouncement of this court in Meyer v. St. Paul-Mercury Indemnity Company,
The Court of Appeal for the First Circuit in a well-considered opinion affirmed the judgment of the trial judge, expressing its full agreement with his holding in the light of the Meyer case, and in finding no liability on the part of any of the defendants.
In applying for writs to this court applicants assigned the following errors in brief: (1) "The Court of Appeal erred in concurring in the view of the trial court that all it had to do was to accept the conclusions of ultimate fact as testified to by the medical experts, without testing those conclusions in the light of all of the evidence and the conclusions and inferences which reasonably attach to it;" (2) "The trial court and the Court of Appeal erred in failing to give any consideration to the excited utterances and spontaneous declarations of Dr. Campanella upon his unanticipated return to Baton Rouge to see the patient, and in accepting the defendant doctor's explanation that his `Latin blood involuntarily spoke out' rather than applying the rule of res gestae and the doctrine of excited utterances or spontaneous exclamations;" (3) "The trial court and Court of Appeal erred in failing to hold that the defendants were guilty of negligence which was the proximate cause of the unexpected and unforeseen result obtained in the operative process;" and, alternatively, (4) "the trial court and the Court of Appeal erred in failing to apply the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur to the facts presented in this case."
In oral argument, however, and more particularly in a supplemental brief since filed, counsel for plaintiffs concede the defendant doctors were well qualified and competent, belonging to an outstanding orthopedic firm in Baton Rouge. In urging that the decision be reversed they rely upon the negligent post-operative treatment of Miss Uter by the defendant physicians. Plaintiffs place much stress upon the spontaneous declarations made on the part of Dr. Campanella when, upon viewing Miss Uter's unanticipated condition on his return to Baton Rogue, he expressed surprise that the cast had not been cut and proceeded to cut it, claiming her condition was a result of negligence on the part of the attending physicians in not removing the cast sooner, as it was obvious from the hospital chart Miss Uter was suffering intense pain, which indicated infection had set in.
The first principal witness called by plaintiffs, Dr. Jack Wickstrom, a recognized specialist in the field of orthopedics from New Orleans, concluded, after examining Miss Uter's leg and reviewing her medical history, that the surgery did not damage the peroneal nerve prior to its separation into its two branches, and that the surgery did not cause impairment of the deep branch of the peroneal nerve. On cross-examination, Dr. Wickstrom testified Dr. Campanella possessed the required skill and competency to undertake the osteotomy and that Doctors Means and Bannerman possessed the required skill and competency to undertake the post-operative care of Miss Uter. He was also allowed, over strenuous objection of the plaintiffs, to give his appraisal of the post-operative
After examining Miss Uter and reviewing her case history, Dr. William E. Smith, orthopedic specialist of Baton Rouge, also testified with respect to the qualifications of the defendant doctors and the post-operative care tendered by them. His testimony was, in substance, to the same effect as that of Dr. Wickstrom, both with regard to the competency and judgment of the three physicians in the performance of the operation, and also in connection with the post-operative care given the patient.
After reviewing the testimony of Dr. Richard M. Nunnally, specialist and pathology expert at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital, Dr. Perry L. Chesney, a qualified and recognized general surgeon practicing in Baton Rouge, and Dr. Albert L. McQuown, specialist and pathology expert, we find ourselves in complete agreement with the findings of the district court and the Court of Appeal that there is nothing in the record that would indicate negligence on the part of the hospital, the members of its staff, or its employees. Dr. Chesney further testified that after examining the hospital records he could find nothing to indicate any lack of judgment on the part of Dr. Campanella in performing the osteotomy.
The conclusion we have reached clearly disposes of plaintiffs' alternative plea of res ipsa loquitur.
For the reasons assigned, the judgment of the Court of Appeal is reinstated and made the final judgment of this court.