Mohr v. Williams – Case Brief Summary
Summary of Mohr v. Williams, 104 N.W. 12 (Minn. 1905).
Mohr (P) arranged for Williams (D), an ear specialist, to perform surgery on her right ear. After Williams began performing the operation he decided that Mohr’s left ear rather than her right ear required surgery, although the condition was not life threatening. Williams operated successfully on the left ear without having received permission from Mohr.
Mohr sued Williams for battery. At trial the court entered judgment in favor of Mohr. A new trial was granted on the grounds that the damages were excessive. The court denied Williams’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and both parties appealed.
If a patient gives a physician specific consent to operate, does the physician have general consent to perform other surgical operations undertaken to treat other problems?
Holding and Rule
No. When a doctor obtains a patient’s specific consent for a particular operation he may not perform another operation on the patient without her consent. A patient’s consent is implied when an emergency situation arises. However, this does not allow the doctor a free license to attempt to remedy all problems found that are not life threatening. The court held that in this case, there was no evidence that the condition of the plaintiff’s left ear presented a serious or life threatening situation.
Even though there was no showing that he had a wrongful intent or that he had been negligent, Williams was still liable for battery. The court held that it was not relevant that the operation was successful.
Regarding damages, the court held that damages would depend on the character and nature of the injury inflicted and that the beneficial nature of the operation and Williams’s good faith must also be taken into consideration.
See Hawkins v. McGee, also known as “The Hairy Hand Case”, for a contract law case brief involving a lawsuit for breach of contract for a doctor’s failure to fulfill his promise that the proposed surgery would be successful.