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CE, Ass., 10 avril 1992, p. 171 Case Epoux V
10 April 1992
Translated by:
Tony Weir
Professor B. S. Markesinis

10 April 1992

Conseil d’Etat

Considering the application by M. and Mme V., of 6, rue Louis Jouvet in Bihorel-les-Rouen, 76420, lodged on 2 June 1986 … asking the Conseil d’Etat to :

1) annul the decision of 4 April 1986 by which the administrative tribunal of Rouen dismissed their claim for 4,437,600 francs damages plus interest against the Belvedere hospital clinic at Mont-Saint-Aignan, Seine Maritime, as compensation for the injuries from the caesarian operation performed on Mme V. on 9 May 1979, and held them liable for the costs of the medical expert;

and 2) hold the Belvedere clinic liable to Mme V. and her husband the sum of 4,437,600 francs with compound interest by way of compensation for the harm suffered; …

On the principle of liability:

Considering that on 9 May 1979, a few days before her expected confinement, Mme V. had a caearian operation under intramuscular anaesthesia during which she suffered several sudden drops in arterial pressure leading to a cardiac attack; that she was resuscitated in the clinic and then transferred to the regional central hospital of Rouen, where she was cared for until 4 July 1979; and that the cerebral anoxia due to the heart attack in the course of the operation of 9 May 1979 has resulted in serious and lasting neurological and physical problems;

Considering that it emerges from the inquiry, especially from the expert reports called for by the judge, and from the preliminary judgment of the administrative tribunal of Rouen dated 4 April 1986 that the echography had disclosed the existence of a placenta praevia, creating a recognisable risk that a caesarian operation might result in haemorrhage and consequent loss of blood pressure and drop in cardiac flow; and that it was known at the date of the operation that intramuscular anaesthetic presented a special risk of loss of blood pressure;

Considering that prior to the operation the anaesthetist applied an excessive dosage of a drug known to reduce blood pressure, that half an hour later a sudden drop in blood pressure was noted along with heart tremors and nausea, that the doctor then proceeded with the intramuscular anaesthesia as planned, using a product clearly contraindicated in view of its tendency to reduce blood pressure; that there was another drop in blood pressure at 11.10 a.m., and that after the operation and the birth of the child, there was a flow of blood followed, at 11.25 am., by a third drop in blood pressure which treatment failed to cure, and that at 12.30 p.m. she was inoculated with plasma, thawed but inadequately warmed, which resulted immediately in extreme pain followed by the heart attack;

Considering that these mistakes which were, according to the experts, the cause of the harm suffered by Mme V. constitute medical negligence sufficient to render the hospital liable, and that therefore M. and Mme V. are entitled to have the decision of 4 April annulled in so far as it rejected their claims.;

On the extent of the harm suffered:

Considering that Mme V. who was 33 years old at the time of the anaesthesia of which she was the accidental victim, has since suffered serious damage to her left leg and rather lesser damage to her left arm; that she suffers badly from lapses of memory, temporal and spatial disorientation, and personality defects; that rehabilitation took a long time; that her physical handicaps have affected her appearance, and that even though she offered no actual evidence of lost wages, it is clear that having been an assistant mistress in a secondary school she has no chance of employment in line with her university qualifications; and that damages of one million francs would be appropriate compensation for all this damage;

Considering that M. V., her husband was himself prejudicially affected by his wife’s condition and that, having three children to look after, the conditions of his life were adversely affected; that damages of 300,000 francs would be appropriate compensation for such harm;

Considering that M. and Mme V. are entitled to interest on these sums by way of damages from 12 November 1982 when the hospital clinic received their demand for compensation;

Considering that on 2 June 1986 and 28 February 1990 M. and Mme V. sought to have the interest capitalised, and that on each of these dates at least one year’s interest had accrued, they were entitled, as under article 1154 code civil, to make such a request;

On the cost of expert opinion:

Considering that in the circumstances it is right to make the Belvedere hospital clinic meet the cost of the expert opinions below;


Art. 1: The decision of the administrative tribunal of Rouen dated 4 April is annulled in so far as it rejected the demands of M. and Mme V. and held them liable for the cost of the expert opinions.

Art. 2: The Belvedere hospital clinic is held liable to pay one million francs to Mme V. and 300,000 francs to M. V., these sums to bear interest at the legal rate as from 12 November 1982. The sums of interest due on 2 June 1986 and 28 February 1990 are to be treated as of those dates as interest-bearing capital.

Art. 3: The Belvedere hospital clinic is to bear the cost of the expert opinions at first instance.

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