This study has ranged widely; I shall now narrow its orbit and focus sharply on the American scene. The first case of malpractice to be carried to an American court of appeal, so far as I can discover, was that of Cross v. Guthery, decided by the Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut in 1794 (2 Root 90, 1 Am. Dec. 61).
The plaintiff brought an "action on the case" against the defendant, a "practicing physician who professed to be skilled in surgery." The plaintiff alleged that his wife had a "scrofulous humor" in one of her breasts which required its removal and that he employed the defendant, who performed the operation "in so unskillful and cruel a manner, that the plaintiff's wife survived by but three hours." The plaintiff prayed for damages in the sum of £1,000 to cover his costs and expense and to repay him for the
SMITH HW. LEGAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR MEDICAL MALPRACTICE: IV. MALPRACTICE CLAIMS IN THE UNITED STATES AND A PROPOSED FORMULA FOR TESTING THEIR LEGAL SUFFICIENCY. JAMA. 1941;116(24):2670–2679. doi:10.1001/jama.1941.62820240003010
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