California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

505. Success Not Required

[A/An] [insert type of medical practitioner] is not necessarily negligent just because [his/her] efforts are unsuccessful or [he/she] makes an error that was reasonable under the circumstances. [A/ An] [insert type of medical practitioner] is negligent only if [he/she] was not as skillful, knowledgeable, or careful as other reasonable [insert type of medical practitioners] would have been in similar circumstances.

New September 2003

Directions for Use

Plaintiffs have argued that this type of instruction “provides too easy an ‘out’ for malpractice defendants.” (Fraijo v. Hartland Hospital (1979) 99 Cal.App.3d 331, 343 [160 Cal.Rptr. 246].) Nevertheless, in California, instructions on this point have been sustained when challenged. (Rainer v. Community Memorial Hospital (1971) 18 Cal.App.3d 240, 260 [95 Cal.Rptr. 901].)

Sources and Authority

  • “While a physician cannot be held liable for mere errors of judgment or for erroneous conclusions on matters of opinion, he must use the judgment and form the opinions of one possessed of knowledge and skill common to medical men practicing, in the same or like community and that he may have done his best is no answer to an action of this sort.” (Sim v. Weeks (1935) 7 Cal.App.2d 28, 36 [45 P.2d 350].)
  • “The ‘law has never held a physician or surgeon liable for every untoward result which may occur in medical practice’ but it ‘demands only that a physician or surgeon have the degree of learning and skill ordinarily possessed by practitioners of the medical profession in the same locality and that he exercise ordinary care in applying such learning and skill to the treatment of his patient.’ ” (Huffman v. Lindquist (1951) 37 Cal.2d 465, 473 [234 P.2d 34], internal citations omitted.)
  • It is appropriate to instruct a jury that “they do not necessarily adjudge whether there was negligence in terms of the result achieved . . . .” (Dincau v. Tamayose (1982) 131 Cal.App.3d 780, 800 [182 Cal.Rptr. 855].)
  • “[A] physician and surgeon is not required to make a perfect diagnosis but is only required to have that degree of skill and learning ordinarily possessed by physicians of good standing practicing in the same locality and to use ordinary care and diligence in applying that learning to the treatment of his patient.” (Ries v. Reinard (1941) 47 Cal.App.2d 116, 119 [117 P.2d 386].)
  • “A doctor is not a warrantor of cures nor is he required to guarantee results and in the absence of a want of reasonable care and skill will not be held responsible for untoward results.” (Sanchez v. Rodriguez (1964) 226 Cal.App.2d 439, 449 [38 Cal.Rptr. 110].)

Secondary Sources

6 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, §§ 933, 934

California Tort Guide (Cont.Ed.Bar 3d ed.) § 9.5

3 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 30, General Principles of Liability of Professionals, § 30.01 (Matthew Bender)

36 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 415, Physicians: Medical Malpractice, § 415.11 (Matthew Bender)

17 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 175, Physicians and Surgeons, § 175.38 (Matthew Bender)