California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

552. Affirmative Defense—Simple Procedure

[Name of defendant] claims that [he/she] did not have to inform [name of plaintiff] of the risks of [a/an] [insert medical procedure]. [A/An] [insert type of medical practitioner] is not required to tell a patient about the dangers of a simple procedure if it is commonly understood that the dangers are not likely to occur.

If [name of defendant] has proved that [a/an] [insert medical procedure] is a simple procedure, and that it is commonly understood that any dangers are not likely to occur, then [name of defendant] was not required to inform [name of plaintiff] of the risks.

New September 2003

Directions for Use

“Whenever appropriate, the court should instruct the jury on the defenses available to a doctor who has failed to make the disclosure required by law.” (Cobbs v. Grant (1972) 8 Cal.3d 229, 245 [104 Cal.Rptr. 505, 502 P.2d 1].) This instruction could be modified to cover “informed refusal” cases by redrafting it to state, in substance, that the risks of refusing the test were commonly understood to be unlikely to occur.

Sources and Authority

  • “[A] disclosure need not be made if the procedure is simple and the danger remote and commonly appreciated to be remote.” (Cobbs, supra, 8 Cal.3d at p. 245.)
  • “[T]here is no physician’s duty to discuss the relatively minor risks inherent in common procedures, when it is common knowledge that such risks inherent in the procedure are of very low incidence.” (Cobbs, supra, 8 Cal.3d at p. 244.)
  • This defense is considered a “justification.” Justification for failure to disclose is an affirmative defense on which the defendant has the burden of proof. (Mathis v. Morrissey (1992) 11 Cal.App.4th 332, 347, fn. 9 [13 Cal.Rptr.2d 819].)

Secondary Sources

5 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, §§ 395, 398

California Tort Guide (Cont.Ed.Bar 3d ed.) § 9.11

3 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 31, Liability of Physicians and Other Medical Practitioners, § 31.14 (Matthew Bender)

6 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 58, Assault and Battery, § 58.14 (Matthew Bender)

36 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 415, Physicians: Medical Malpractice, § 415.13 (Matthew Bender)

33 California Legal Forms, Ch. 104, Health Care Transactions, Consents, and Directives, § 104.11 (Matthew Bender)