Since the work nature of resident surgeons is different from that of ordinary workers, their reasonable work hours should be assessed in reference tothe nature of their work (Taiwan)

Debby Yu

The Supreme Court rendered the 106-Tai-Shang-Zi-15 Civil Decision of November 30, 2017 (hereinafter, the “Decision”), holding that since the work nature of resident surgeons is different from that of ordinary workers, their reasonable work hours should be assessed in reference to the nature of their work.

According to the facts underlying this Decision, the Plaintiff was hired as a resident surgeon at the Defendant’s hospital.  Later on April 23, 2009, the Plaintiff fainted in the hallway of operation rooms before participating in the surgery preparation in the discharge of his duty for the hospital.  He was diagnosed to have contracted “acute myocardial infarction with arrhythmia hypoxic brain lesions” (hereinafter, the “Illness at Issue”).  Since the Labor Insurance Bureau (hereinafter, the “LIB”) held that it was an occupational illness, the Plaintiff brought an action to claim damages for occupational accident.  After the original trial court partially ruled in favor of the Plaintiff, both parties were dissatisfied and appealed.

According to this Decision, since the Plaintiff was a resident surgeon, the nature of his work is different from that of an ordinary worker, and his line of business is not governed by the Labor Standards Act.  Therefore, it would seem that the reasonable work hours should be assessed based on the nature of his work.  The appropriateness of the original decision in which the reasonable work hours were examined and determined pursuant to provisions relating to work hours under the Labor Standards Act was questionable already.  In addition, the “Standard for Evaluating Teaching Hospitals” and the “Reference Guide for the Work Rights of Resident Doctors” are regulations which had not become effective until  April 23, 2009 after when the Plaintiff’s illness occurred.  The trial court was questionable when it determined that the Plaintiff’s work hours were excessive and concluded that the Defendant’s hospital had violated the law the protects others pursuant to the work hour standard under the above regulations without explaining the reasons why they could be retroactively applied to the determination of the work hours in this case.

In addition, when considering the extent by which a compensation amount should be reduced or a complete waiver of such compensation based on contributory negligence, the court shall weigh the causation and extent of negligence of both parties in making a decision.  The trial court failed to investigate and examine in detail how the Plaintiff should have addressed the cause of his existing illness in order to fulfill his responsibility for managing his own health as well as how and to which extent such negligence impacted the Illness at Issue but merely generally stated that since the Plaintiff was negligent in managing his own health, the liabilities of the hospital were directly reduced by 65%.  In addition, if the Plaintiff still needed a full-day caregiver, even though it was not necessary to equate this to a professional caregiver, still it was necessary to investigate the compensation level for a typical non-professional full-day caregiver.  The original decision was also inadequate for failure to include such investigation.Based on the foregoing reasons, it was held in this Decision that since both parties had appealed for valid reasons, the original decision was reversed and remanded.