Friday, October 1, 2010

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Reaffirms Its Own Decision to Allow Nurses to Testify on Causation

In its September 29, 2010 Opinion in Freed v. Geisinger Medical Center, 2010 WL 3769276 (Pa. Sept. 29, 2010 Todd, J.), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, after having granted a rare reargument on the issues presented, reaffirmed its own previous decision that nurses may testify as expert witnesses on causation issues in a negligence action in which it was asserted that a breach of the accepted nursing standard of care resulted in the patient's condition.

More specifically, the Court reaffirmed its prior holding "that an otherwise competent and properly qualified nurse is not prohibited by the Professional Nursing Law, 63 P.S. §§ 211 et seq., from giving expert testimony at trial regarding medical causation. "

With its original holding, the Supreme Court overruled sua sponte its prior decision in Flanagan v. Labe, 547 Pa. 254, 690 A.2d 183 (1997), wherein this Court had held a nurse was precluded from offering opinion testimony regarding the specific identity and cause of a medical condition because such testimony constituted a medical diagnosis, which a nurse is precluded from making under the Professional Nursing Law.

The Supreme Court concluded in its original Opinion "that Flanagan was inherently flawed because it applied a statute-the Professional Nursing Law-governing the specific practice of nursing to the distinct area of expert testimony in a court of law, which is governed by rules of evidence, rules of civil procedure, and common law rules regarding expert witnesses."

For more information on this case, here's the link to my Tort Talk post on the original holding:

Here's the link to the Court's decision online (the links to one concurring and two dissenting opinions are not provided):

I send thanks to medical malpractice defense attorney Matt Keris, Esquire of the Moosic, PA office of Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman & Goggin for bringing this decision to my attention.

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