Jyoti Devi vs Suket Hospital 2024 INSC 330 – Medical Negligence – Eggshell Skull Rule

Eggshell Skull Rule– It is a common law doctrine that makes a defendant liable for the plaintiff’s unforeseeable and uncommon reactions to the defendant’s negligent or intentional tort. In simple terms, a person who has an eggshell skull is one who would be more severely impacted by an act, which an otherwise “normal person” would be able to withstand. Hence the term eggshell to denote this as an eggshell is by its very nature, brittle. It is otherwise termed as “taking the victim as one finds them” and, therefore, a doer of an act would be liable for the otherwise more severe impact that such an act may have on the victim- The jurisprudence of the application of this rule, as has developed, (needless to add, in countries other than India) has fit into four categories – first, when a latent condition of the plaintiff has been unearthed; second, when the negligence on the part of the wrongdoer re-activates a plaintiff’s pre-existing condition that had subsided due to treatment; third, wrongdoer’s actions aggravate known, pre-existing conditions, that have not yet received medical attention; and fourth, when the wrongdoer’s actions accelerate an inevitable disability or loss of life due to a condition possessed by the plaintiff, even when the eventuality would have occurred with time, in the absence of the wrongdoer’s actions. As these categories and, the name of the rule itself suggest, the persons to whose cases this rule can be applied, are persons who have pre-existing conditions. Therefore, for this rule to be appropriately invoked and applied, the person in whose case an adjudicatory authority applies must have a pre-existing condition falling into either of the four categories described above. (Para 12.4)

Consumer Protection Act – Scope- i. It is a benevolent, socially orientated legislation, the declared aim of which is aimed at protecting the interests of consumers; ii. Its goal is to provide inexpensive and prompt remedies for the grievances of consumers against defective goods and deficient services; iii. For the above-stated objective, keeping in view the accessibility of these grievance redressal bodies to all, to all persons, quasi-judicial bodies have been set up at the district, state, and national levels; iv. These bodies have been formed to save the aggrieved consumer from the hassle of filing a civil suit, i.e., provide for a prompt remedy in the nature of award or where appropriate, compensation, after having duly complied with the principles of natural justice – Referred to nC. Venkatachalam v. Ajitkumar C. Shah (2011) 12 SCC 707 and J.J. Merchant (Dr) v. Shrinath Chaturvedi (2002) 6 SCC 635 and Common Cause v. Union of India (1997) 10 SCC 729. (Para 12.1)

Medical Negligence – in determining compensation in cases of medical negligence, a balance has to be struck between the demands of the person claiming compensation, as also the interests of those being made liable to pay.- ‘just compensation’- The idea of compensation is based on restitutio in integrum, which means, make good the loss suffered, so far as money is able to do so, or, in other words, take the receiver of such compensation, back to a position, as if the loss/injury suffered by them hadn’t occurred. In Sarla Verma v. DTC13 this Court observed that compensation doesn’t acquire the quality of being just simply because the Tribunal awarding it believes it to be so. For it to be so, it must be, (i) adequate; (ii) fair; and (iii) equitable, in the facts and circumstances of each case. (Para 12.3)

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