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MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE CASES AND LAW

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Sunday, 10 November 2013

Anuradha Shaha Medical Negligence Case Judgment by Supreme Court of India

Medical Negligent Historical Case Judgment by Supreme Court of India- Anuradha Shaha Case.
The appellant-doctors are aggrieved by the quantum of compensation awarded by the National Commission and the liability fastened upon them for the negligence on their part and have prayed to set aside the same by allowing their appeals. In so far as the appellant-AMRI Hospital is concerned, it has also questioned the quantum of compensation awarded and has prayed to reduce the same by awarding just and reasonable compensation by modifying the judgment by allowing its appeal.

So far as the claimant is concerned, he is aggrieved by the said judgment and the compensation awarded which, according to him, is inadequate, as the same is contrary to the admitted facts and law laid down by this Court in catena of cases regarding awarding of compensation in relation to the proved medical negligence for the death of his wife Anuradha Saha (hereinafter referred to as the ‘deceased’)

The brief relevant facts and the grounds urged on behalf of the appellant-doctors, AMRI Hospital and the claimant in seriatim are adverted to in this common judgment for the purpose of examining the correctness of their respective legal contentions urged in their respective appeals with a view to pass common judgment and award.

Brief necessary and relevant facts of the case are stated hereunder:
The claimant filed Original Petition No. 240 of 1999 on 09.03.1999 before the National Commission claiming compensation for Rs.77,07,45,000/- and later the same was amended by claiming another sum of Rs.20,00,00,000/-. After the case of Malay Kumar Ganguly Vs. Dr. Sukumar Mukherjee[1] was remanded by this Court to the National Commission to award just and reasonable compensation to the claimant by answering the points framed in the said case, the National Commission held the doctors and the AMRI Hospital negligent in treating the wife of the claimant on account of which she died. Therefore, this Court directed the National Commission to determine just and reasonable compensation payable to the claimant. However, the claimant, the appellant-Hospital and the doctors were aggrieved by the amount of compensation awarded by the National Commission and also the manner in which liability was apportioned amongst each of them. While the claimant was aggrieved by the inadequate amount of compensation, the appellant-doctors and the Hospital found the amount to be excessive and too harsh. They further claimed that the proportion of liability ascertained on each of them is unreasonable. Since, the Court; we intend to produce their contentions in brief as under:

On granting the quantum of compensation based on the income of the deceased:
It is the claim of the learned counsel on behalf of the appellant-doctors and the Hospital that there is no pleading in the petition of the claimant that the deceased had a stable job or a stable income, except in paragraph 2A of the petition which states that the deceased was a Post-Graduate student and she had submitted her thesis. The only certificate produced by the claimant shows that she was just a graduate in Arts (English). Further, it is urged by the learned counsel that the document produced by the claimant - a computer generated sheet, does not explain for what work the remuneration, if at all was received by the deceased. Also, whether the same was a onetime payment of stipend or payment towards voluntary work, is not explained by the claimant. Further, it is stated by the learned counsel that there is no averment in the petition of the claimant as to on what account the said payment was received by the deceased and whether she has received it as a Child Psychologist as claimed by the claimant or otherwise.

It is also the case of the appellant-doctors and the Hospital that the claimant had not led any oral evidence with regard to the income of the deceased and further he has not explained why just a single document discloses the payment made sometime in the month of June 1988 in support of the income of the deceased when admittedly, the couple came to India in the month of March-April, 1998. Therefore, the learned counsel for the appellant-doctors and the Hospital have urged that the said document is a vague document and no reliance could have been placed by the National Commission on the same to come to the conclusion that the deceased in fact had such an income to determine and award the compensation as has been awarded in the impugned judgment and order. From a perusal of the said document, it could be ascertained that it shows just one time payment received for some odd jobs. Therefore, it is contended by the appellant-doctors and the Hospital that the claimant has not been able to discharge his onus by adducing any positive evidence in this regard before the National Commission.

It is further contended by the learned counsel that the assertion of the claimant in the petition and in his evidence before the National Commission that the income of the deceased was $30,000 per annum is not substantiated by producing cogent evidence. No appointment letter of the deceased to show that she was employed in any organization in whatsoever capacity had been produced nor has the claimant produced any income certificate/salary sheet. No evidence is produced by the claimant in support of the fact that the deceased was engaged on any permanent work. No Income Tax Return has been produced by the claimant to show that she had been paying tax or had any income in U.S.A.

It is further submitted that even if it is assumed that the annual income of the deceased was $30,000 per annum, apart from deduction on account of tax, it is also essential for the National Commission to ascertain the personal living expenses of the deceased which was required to be deducted out of the annual income to determine the compensation payable to the claimant. The National Commission was required to first ascertain the style of living of the deceased-whether it was Spartan or Bohemian to arrive the income figure of $30,000 per annum. In India, on account of style and standard of living of a person, one–third of the gross income is required to be deducted out of the annual income as laid down in the decision of this Court in the case of Oriental Insurance Company Ltd. Vs. Jashuben & Ors[2].

It is further contended by the learned counsel for the appellant-doctors and the Hospital that no yardstick is available about the expenditure of the deceased in the U.S.A. The claimant has not adduced any evidence in this regard. The evidence given by the so-called expert, Prof. John F. Burke Jr. also does not say anything on this score.

Even if it is assumed that the annual income of the deceased was $30,000 per annum for which there is no evidence, 25% thereof is required to be deducted towards tax. The deduction of tax is much more as is apparent from the case reported in United India Insurance Co. Ltd. & Others Vs. Patricia Jean Mahajan & Ors[3]. In fact, the claimant has neither adduced any evidence in this regard nor has he produced the relevant statute from which the percentage of tax deduction can be ascertained.

The Civil Appeal No. 2866/2012 filed by the claimant-Dr.Kunal Saha is also partly allowed and the finding on contributory negligence by the National Commission on the part of the claimant is set aside. The direction of the National Commission to deduct 10% of the awarded amount of compensation on account of contributory negligence is also set aside by enhancing the compensation from Rs.1,34,66,000/- to Rs.6,08,00,550/- with 6% interest per annum from the date of the complaint to the date of the payment to the claimant.

The AMRI Hospital is directed to comply with this judgment by sending demand draft of the compensation awarded in this appeal to the extent of liability imposed on it after deducting the amount, if any, already paid to the claimant, within eight weeks and submit the compliance report.