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Digest: Rosit vs Davao Doctors Hospital

G.R. No. 210445, December 07, 2015


Rosit figured in a motorcycle accident. The X-ray showed that he fractured his jaw. Rosit was then referred to Dr. Gestuvo, a specialist in mandibular injuries who operated on Rosit.

Dr. Gestuvo used a metal plate fastened to the jaw with metal screws to immobilize the mandible. As the operation required the smallest screws available, Dr. Gestuvo cut the screws on hand to make them smaller. Dr. Gestuvo knew that there were smaller titanium screws available in Manila, but did not so inform Rosit supposing that the latter would not be able to afford the same.

Following the procedure, Rosit could not properly open and close his mouth and was in pain. X-rays done on Rosit two (2) days after the operation showed that the fracture in his jaw was aligned but the screws used on him touched his molar. Given the X-ray results, Dr. Gestuvo referred Rosit to a dentist. The dentist who checked Rosit, Dr. Pangan, opined that another operation is necessary and that it is to be performed in Cebu.

Alleging that the dentist told him that the operation conducted on his mandible was improperly done, Rosit went back to Dr. Gestuvo to demand a loan to defray the cost of the additional operation as well as the expenses of the trip to Cebu. Dr. Gestuvo gave Rosit P4,500.

Rosit went to Cebu on February 19, 1999, still suffering from pain and could hardly open his mouth.

In Cebu, Dr. Pangan removed the plate and screws thus installed by Dr. Gestuvo and replaced them with smaller titanium plate and screws. Dr. Pangan also extracted Rosit's molar that was hit with a screw and some bone fragments. Three days after the operation, Rosit was able to eat and speak well and could open and close his mouth normally.

On his return to Davao, Rosit demanded that Dr. Gestuvo reimburse him for the cost of the operation and the expenses he incurred in Cebu amounting to P140,000, as well as for the P50,000 that Rosit would have to spend for the removal of the plate and screws that Dr. Pangan installed. Dr. Gestuvo refused to pay.

Thus, Rosit filed a civil case against Dr. Gestuvo and DDH.

RTC: The RTC freed DDH from liability on the ground that it exercised the proper diligence in the selection and supervision of Dr. Gestuvo, but adjudged Dr. Gestuvo negligent.

CA: Unlike the RTC, the CA ruled that the res ipsa loquitur principle is not applicable and that the testimony of an expert witness is necessary for a finding of negligence. The appellate court also gave credence to Dr. Pangan's letter stating the opinion that Dr. Gestuvo did not commit gross negligence in his emergency management of Rosit's fractured mandible.


Whether An expert witness is not necessary as the res ipsa loquitur doctrine is applicable.

Whether Dr. Pangan's Affidavit is not admissible


1. An expert witness is not necessary as the res ipsa loquitur doctrine is applicable

To establish medical negligence, this Court has held that an expert testimony is generally required to define the standard of behavior by which the court may determine whether the physician has properly performed the requisite duty toward the patient. This is so considering that the requisite degree of skill and care in the treatment of a patient is usually a matter of expert opinion.10

Solidum v. People of the Philippines provides an exception. There, the Court explained that where the application of the principle of res ipsa loquitur is warranted, an expert testimony may be dispensed with in medical negligence cases:

Although generally, expert medical testimony is relied upon in malpractice suits to prove that a physician has done a negligent act or that he has deviated from the standard medical procedure, when the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur is availed by the plaintiff, the need for expert medical testimony is dispensed with because the injury itself provides the proof of negligence. The reason is that the general rule on the necessity of expert testimony applies only to such matters clearly within the domain of medical science, and not to matters that are within the common knowledge of mankind which may be testified to by anyone familiar with the facts. x x x

Thus, courts of other jurisdictions have applied the doctrine in the following situations: leaving of a foreign object in the body of the patient after an operation, injuries sustained on a healthy part of the body which was not under, or in the area, of treatment, removal of the wrong part of the body when another part was intended, knocking out a tooth while a patient's jaw was under anesthetic for the removal of his tonsils, and loss of an eye while the patient plaintiff was under the influence of anesthetic, during or following an operation for appendicitis, among others.

We have further held that resort to the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur as an exception to the requirement of an expert testimony in medical negligence cases may be availed of if the following essential requisites are satisfied: (1) the accident was of a kind that does not ordinarily occur unless someone is negligent; (2) the instrumentality or agency that caused the injury was under the exclusive control of the person charged; and (3) the injury suffered must not have been due to any voluntary action or contribution of the person injured.

This Court cannot accede to the CA's findings as it is at once apparent from the records that the essential requisites for the application of the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur are present.

The first element was sufficiently established when Rosit proved that one of the screws installed by Dr. Gestuvo struck his molar. 

second element for the res ipsa loquitur doctrine application, it is sufficient that the operation which resulted in the screw hitting Rosit's molar was, indeed, performed by Dr. Gestuvo. No other doctor caused such fact.

Lastly, the third element that the injury suffered must not have been due to any voluntary action or contribution of the person injured was satisfied in this case. It was not shown that Rosit's lung disease could have contributed to the pain. What is clear is that he suffered because one of the screws that Dr. Gestuvo installed hit Rosit's molar.

Clearly then, the res ipsa loquitur doctrine finds application in the instant case and no expert testimony is required to establish the negligence of defendant Dr. Gestuvo.

2. The appellate court's Decision absolving Dr. Gestuvo of negligence was also anchored on a letter signed by Dr. Pangan who stated the opinion that Dr. Gestuvo did not commit gross negligence in his emergency management of Mr. Rosit's fractured mandible.18 Clearly, the appellate court overlooked the elementary principle against hearsay evidence.

In Dantis v. Maghinang, Jr., the Court reiterated the oft-repeated rule that "an affidavit is merely hearsay evidence where its affiant/maker did not take the witness stand." Here, Dr. Pangan never took the witness stand to affirm the contents of his affidavit. Thus, the affidavit is inadmissible and cannot be given any weight. The CA, therefore, erred when it considered the affidavit of Dr. Pangan, mpreso for considering the same as expert testimony.

Moreover, even if such affidavit is considered as admissible and the testimony of an expert witness, the Court is not bound by such testimony. As ruled in Ilao-Quianay v. Mapile:

Indeed, courts are not bound by expert testimonies. They may place whatever weight they choose upon such testimonies in accordance with the facts of the case. The relative weight and sufficiency of expert testimony is peculiarly within the province of the trial court to decide, considering the ability and character of the witness, his actions upon the witness stand, the weight and process of the reasoning by which he has supported his opinion, his possible bias in favor of the side for whom he testifies, and any other matters which serve to illuminate his statements. The opinion of an expert should be considered by the court in view of all the facts and circumstances of the case. The problem of the evaluation of expert testimony is left to the discretion of the trial court whose ruling thereupon is not reviewable in the absence of an abuse of that discretion.

Thus, the belief of Dr. Pangan whether Dr. Gestuvo is guilty of negligence or not will not bind the Court. The Court must weigh and examine such testimony and decide for itself the merits thereof.

As discussed above, Dr. Gestuvo's negligence is clearly demonstrable by the doctrines of res ipsa loquitur and informed consent

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