Consumer Protection Act Case Law:-
Springs Meadows Hospital Vs. Harjol Ahluwalia 1998(2) SCALE 456 (SC) – By Mayank Malhotra
M/s. Spring Meadows Hospital & Anr. etc. v/s Harjol Ahluwalia Through K.S. Ahluwalia & Another
Civil Appeal No. 7708 of 1997 With Civil Appeal No. 7858 of 1997
Decided On, 25 March 1998
At, Supreme Court of India
By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE S. SAGHIR AHMAD & THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE G.B. PATTANAIK
Arun Khosla, Mr. K. Nijhawan, Mr. S. Rajappa, Mr. Sanjiv Sharma, Mr. Ashok K. Gupta, and H.D. Shourie, Advocate for Caveator in person, for appearing parties.
It’s a landmark judgment given by Supreme court of India in 1998; The case decision was given by NCDRC (National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission) first; which was then challenged in the Hon’ble Supreme Court with a question of law consists; whether the case comes under the Consumer Protection Act,1986; and whether both the Petitioner comes under the definition of Consumer in Consumer Protection Act, 1986. The case was of medical negligence. Here the question arises; whether a medical negligence case will come under the Consumer Protection Act,1986 or not?
A Complaint Petition was filed by minor Harjot Ahluwalia through his parents Mrs. Harpreet Ahluwalia and Mr. Kamaljit Singh Ahluwalia before the Commission stating that the minor was being treated at a Nursing Home in Noida. As there was no improvement in his health minor was brought to M/s. Spring Meadows Hospital which is the appellant in the later challenging case.
In the hospital, the patient was examined by the Senior Consultant Paediatrician, dr. Promila Bhutani and on her advice the patient was admitted as an in-patient in the hospital. The doctor made the diagnosis that the patient was suffering from typhoid; and intimated the parents that medicines have been prescribed for the treatment of typhoid fever.
On the 30th of December, 1993 at 9.00 a.m. Miss Bina Matthew, nurse of the hospital asked the father of the minor patient to get the injection; – In Lariago – to be administered intravenously to the minor patient. Whereupon the nurse injected the same to the minor patient. The patient, immediately on being injected collapsed while still in the lap of his mother.
it was further alleged that before giving the injection the nurse had not made any sensitive test to find out; whether there would be any adverse reaction on the patient. Seeing the minor child collapse the parents immediately called for help and the Resident Doctor Dr. Dhananjay attended the patient. Said Dr. Dhananjay told the parents that the child had suffered a cardiac arrest; and then by manually pumping the chest, the Doctor attempted to revive the heartbeat. The hospital authorities then summoned an Anaesthetist, Dr. Anil Mehta who arrived within half an hour; and then started a procedure of manual respiration by applying the oxygen cylinder and manual Respirator.
In the meantime, Dr. Promila Bhutani also reached the hospital and the minor child was kept on a device called manual Respirator. Though there was no improvement in the condition of the child. In the course of treatment as the minor’s platelet count fell; a blood transfusion was given but still, no improvement could be seen. Dr. Mehta; therefore, intimated the parents that the hospital does not have the necessary facilities to manage the minor child; and he should be shifted to an intensive Care Unit equipped with an Auto Respirator.
Consumer Protection Act
On the advice of Dr. Mehta, the parents admitted the child in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit of the All India Institute of Medical Science. In the Institute the doctors examined the minor child thoroughly; and informed the parents that the child is critical; and even if he would survive; he would live only in a vegetative state as irreparable damage had been caused to his brain; and there was no chance of revival of the damaged parts. The minor was then thereafter discharged after informing the parents; that no useful purpose would be served by keeping the minor child there.
Dr. Anil Mehta as well as Dr. Naresh Juneja, Chief Administrator of Spring Meadows Hospital, however, offered to admit the minor child at their hospital; and to do whatever was possible to stabilize the condition of the child and accordingly the minor child was again admitted to the hospital.
On account of negligence and deficiency on the part of the hospital authorities suffered irreparable damages and could survive only as a mere vegetative and accordingly claimed compensation to the tune of Rs. 28 lakh.
- The minor child is the patient who was admitted into the hospital for treatment can the parents of the child be held to be consumers; so, as to claim compensation under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act?
- Is the commission under the Act is entitled to award compensation to the parents for mental agony in view of the powers of the commission under Section 14 of the Act?
- Even if the child, as well as the parents of the child; would come under the definition of the ‘consumer’ under Section 2(1) (d) of the Act; whether compensation can be awarded in favor of both the consumers; or compensation can be awarded only to the beneficiary of the services rendered; who in the present case would be a child who was admitted into the hospital?
Consumer Protection Act
The United Nations had passed a resolution in April 1985 indicating certain guidelines; under which the Government could make law for better protection of the interest of the consumers. Such laws were necessary more in the developing countries to protect the consumers from hazards to their health; and safety and make them available speedier and cheaper redress.
Whitehouse v Jordan and another,  1 ALL ER 267 "The true position is that an error of judgment may, or may not, be negligent; it depends on the nature of the error. If it is one that would not have been made by a reasonably competent professional man profession to have the standard and type of skill that the defendant holds himself out as having, and acting with ordinary care, then it is negligence. If, on the other hand, it is an error that such a man, acting with ordinary care, might have made, then it is not negligence."
Consumer Protection Act
Gross medical mistakes will always result in a finding of negligence. The use of wrong drugs or wrong gas during the course of anesthetic will frequently lead to the imposition of liability; and in some situations, even the principle of Res ipsa loquitur can be applied.
The definition clause is wide enough to include not only the person who hires the services; but also the beneficiary of such services which beneficiary is other than the person who hires the services; the conclusion is irresistible that both the parents of the child as well as the child would be a consumer within the meaning of Section 2(1)(d)(ii) of the Act.
the Commission is entitled to award compensation for any loss or injury suffered by the consumer; due to the negligence of the person whose services had been hired; and that being the position it would be open for the Commission to award compensation to the minor child who has suffered an injury and not the parents. In other words, the learned counsel urged that; clause (d) of Section 14 may not be interpreted enabling the Commission to award compensation both to the minor child and his parents.
The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission held that since the resident doctor and nurse were employees of the appellant hospital; the latter was Liable and awarded compensation of Rs. 12.51 Lakh to the child and of Rs.5 lakh to the parents for acute mental agony.
Hon’ble Supreme Court dismissed the appeal with costs of Rs. 5,000.
This case summary is written by Mayank Malhotra, Campus Ambassador at Legal Thirst. He is a 1st year B.B.A. L.L.B. (Hons.) student at Christ (Deemed to be University) Delhi-NCR.