Rogers v Whitaker 1992 High Court of Australia
FACTS: The Plaintiff suffered a degenerative condition in her good eye after a failed operation by the defendant to cure her other eye, leaving her totally blind.
ISSUE: Whether the defendant’s failure to warn the plaintiff of the remote risk of the condition was a breach of the defendant’s duty of care.
JUDGMENT: Even though the risk was remote, the plaintiff’s particular circumstances made the risk of developing the condition significant to her. The failure to warn the plaintiff of the risk amounted to a breach of the defendant’s duty of care.
Rogers owed Whitaker a duty to provide medical treatment with due care and skill. This included a duty to warn the plaintiff of relevant risks
The defendant tried to claim that because the risk was so low, a reasonable person in the same position as the defendant would not see the need for warning the plaintiff about it.
A reasonable person in the defendant’s position would have given the plaintiff a warning because the plaintiff had vision only in one eye. The risk of developing sympathetic ophthalmia held much more serious consequences for the plaintiff, because she would be unable to see. If she had been warned about the condition, she could have made an informed choice about whether the potential benefits of curing her blind eye outweighed the potential risk of losing sight in both eyes.
The defendant failed to warn the plaintiff of the risk of developing sympathetic ophthalmia as a result of the operation. If the plaintiff had been informed of this risk, she may have decided not to proceed with the surgery.