national consumer disputes redressal commission

National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission: In an appeal filed under Section 19 of Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (‘1986 Act’) against the order passed by the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Puducherry (‘SCDRC’) partly allowing the complaint of a woman who suffered for 12 years after a surgery performed in 1991 and ultimately found nut-bolt inside her body, Sudip Ahluwalia, J. (Presiding Member) and AVM J. Rajendra, AVSM VSM (Retd.), Member refused to interfere with the compensation awarded by SCDRC.

Factual Matrix

The complainant underwent abdominal hysterectomy at a nursing home in Pondicherry performed by two doctors. The histopathology report indicated ‘Chronic Cervicitis’, and after completion of surgery, the complainant got symptoms of giddiness and shivering which led her to be admitted to the Intensive Care Unit on 17-07-1991. A provisional diagnosis suggested ‘Urinary Tract Infection’ for which, the doctors provided treatment, she got discharged and one of the doctors conducted dressings for surgery wounds, sometimes even at her residence. Once, the doctor observed exposed unhealed wounds, treated her and prescribed medication for stomachache and headache. Despite continued treatments, her health deteriorated, making her unable to carry on with her day-to-day activities and dependent upon her family members for everything. The distress in family due to her deteriorating health caused her husband to suffer massive heart attack on 22-09-1995, and she also suffered mild heart attack the very next day.

During 1997, she sought medical help from a renowned urologist after noticing traces of blood in her urine, after which she underwent kidney X-Ray revealing a ‘butterfly’ shaped object, but no appropriate guidance was provided. An array of ailments and switching doctors went on but to no avail until 2003 when she consulted an Obstetrician and Gynecologist and thorough examination led to diagnosing a poorly delineated object approximately 2.5 cm in size required to be removed through abdominal surgery. Another scan revealed her uterus to be intact confirming the presence of a foreign body, while the same was allegedly removed on 24-06-1991. She underwent major surgery in November 2003 for removal of foreign objects identified as ‘Nut and Bolt’ left inside her abdomen during surgery performed on 24-06-1991. After acknowledging negligence on part of the clinic and doctors who performed the open surgery in 1991, they offered to perform necessary operation free of charge and also compensated her with a sum of Rs. 50,000 for the immense pain and suffering she endured over the past 12 years due to their actions.

Legal Trajectory

However, she filed a complaint before SCDRC seeking compensation of Rs 84 lakhs under Section 14(d) and Rs 1 lakh under Section 14(c) of the 1986 Act with costs of Rs 5,000 and interest @24% p.a. on the total claim of realization. The opposite parties denied her admission or operation in the clinic and also refuted the removal of rusted nut and bolt by claiming that they ought to be stainless steel material for medical use.

The SCDRC decided in favour of the complainant holding the opposite parties to be jointly liable to pay Rs 6 lakhs towards medical treatment, Rs 72,000 towards house maid engagement, Rs 7 lakhs towards the mental and physical suffering due to negligence on part of opposite parties and Rs 5,000 towards costs. The same was appealed against in the instant matter.

NCDRC’s Analysis of Medical Negligence

The Commission regarded the instant matter as “a case centered on medical negligence, the duty of care expected of medical professionals towards their patients, and the liability of the Appellants in the Complainant’s health complications.” Regarding the appellant’s contentions that the complaint was time-barred since the complainant came to know about foreign object in 1997, the Court acknowledged her version that her suffering persisted until 2003 since there was no clarity on such object, which she came to know in 2003 and the complaint was timely filed within 2 years of date of knowledge. Regarding challenge against evidence, the Court highlighted that the appellants neither produced anything to prove fabrication, nor proved their version through evidentiary documents, and also pointed out that there was no evidence of any other surgery performed on the complainant, to establish that the bolt and nut was left in the abdomen of the complainant negligently during the abdominal hysterectomy surgery in 1991 by the opposite parties.

The Commission took note of the unbearable pain of the complainant swinging to and fro among various doctors and treatments looking for relief, while also suffering financial loss and expressed that she deserved to be appropriately compensated. The Commission found the compensation decided by the SCDRC as appropriately determined.

[M/S. Clinic Nallam v. A. Helen Victoria, First Appeal No. 296 of 2012, Order dated 10-11-2023]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

For Appellant: Advocate Senthil Jagadeeshan, Advocate Sajal Jain

For Respondent: Advocate Akur Raj, Advocate Nikita Raj, Advocate Tushar Bhalla, Advocate Sarthak Dora

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