This blog was co-authored by: Caitlin Gardiner, Candidate Attorney

In this claim, alleging that the hospital staff’s negligence during the claimant’s labour resulted in her child’s cerebral palsy, the Supreme Court of Appeal addressed the issue of how to assess expert evidence in a field where medical certainty is virtually impossible. In such circumstances a court must determine whether and to what extent the experts’ opinions provided are founded on logical reasoning.

This entails an evaluation as to whether the experts had considered the comparative benefits and risks to establish a “defensible conclusion”. An opinion advanced without logical foundation can be rejected.

The court found that the hospital’s witness provided the most reasoned and cogent explanation for the minor’s condition which closely matched the objective facts in comparison to her opposing expert’s evidence which the court viewed as thinly reasoned. The hospital’s expert stood her ground despite being subjected to an arduous cross-examination.

The case is: HAL obo MML v MEC for Health, Free State [2021] ZASCA 149

See also: Part 1