Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Superior Court Rules that Internist Can Testify as Plaintiff's Expert on Musculoskeletal Issues in a Slip and Fall Case


In the case of Wright v. Residence Inn by Marriott, Inc., 2019 Pa.Super. 110 (Pa. Super. April 9, 2019 Kunselman, J., Bowes, J., Shogan, J.) (Op. by Kunselman, J.) (Shogan, J., concurring in result), the Pennsylvania Superior Court ordered a new trial on damages only in a case where the appellate court found that the Plaintiff’s medical expert was improperly excluded by the trial court below.   

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff in a slip and fell ice and sustained injuries in the form of shoulder and hip.  At trial, the Plaintiff presented an internist as a medical expert who had been practicing for over 37 years in the field of internal medicine, which the expert described as covering all aspects of medicine including the musculoskeletal system.  

The Pennsylvania Superior Court reaffirmed the rule that experts in one area of medicine may be qualified to address other areas where the specialties overlap, or where the expert has experience in the other field of medicine.  

The Superior Court emphasized that the matter before it was not a medical malpractice case and that the witness was not asked to evaluate the care of a different specialty.  Rather, the expert was only present at trial at the request of the Plaintiff to offer an opinion on causation, treatment, and prognosis.  

The court noted that the expert in this case routinely treated patients with injuries similar to that alleged by the Plaintiff. The court also noted that the Plaintiff’s expert’s specialty was not wholly unrelated to the type of treatment necessary for the Plaintiff’s alleged injuries.   While a different type of medical specialist may have been more qualified, this fact alone did not support the trial court’s exclusion of the Plaintiff’s expert at trial.  

As the Pennsylvania Superior Court found that the exclusion of the Plaintiff’s trial expert was prejudicial given that it left the Plaintiff without any expert witness on the causation issue and extent of injuries issue, a new trial was ordered on the issue of damages only.  

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

I send thanks to Attorney James M. Beck of the Philadelphia office of the Reed Smith law firm for bringing this case to my attention.  

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