Monday, May 11, 2020

Pennsylvania Superior Court Addresses Admissibility of Expert Testimony At Trial

In the case of Rolon v. Davies, No. 2046 MDA 2018 (Pa. Super. April 28, 2020 Stabile, J., McLaughlin, J., and Musmanno, J.) (Op. by Stabile, J.), the Pennsylvania Superior Court provided guidance on their required elements for expert testimony to be admissible in a medical malpractice case.

In its decision, the Pennsylvania Superior reserved a trial court’s grant of a nonsuit in favor of a Defendant surgeon in a negligence case filed under allegations that one of his patients had died of a pulmonary embolism following surgery.

At the trial court level, the Defendants moved for a nonsuit under a claim that the Plaintiff’s expert did not offer his opinion to as reasonable degree of medical certain consistent with Pennsylvania law regarding the Defendant’s alleged negligence. The trial court judge granted that particular Defendant’s motion for a nonsuit and the jury eventually returned a defense verdict in favor of the other Defendants. The Plaintiff appealed asserting, in part, that the trial court judge erred in granting the nonsuit regarding the expert at issue.

The Superior Court reversed the trial court’s entry of a nonsuit after finding that the record confirmed that the Plaintiff’s medical expert stated he was certain of his opinion.  The Superior Court also noted that the Plaintiff’s medical expert also provided a thorough explanation as to how he arrived at his opinion given the evidence before him.

In its Opinion, the Superior Court provided a nice review of the requirements to allow expert testimony into evidence. The court reiterated the rule that an expert need not use the 'magic words' "to a reasonable degree of medical certainty” for her or his testimony to be admissible.   Rather, the Superior Court panel noted that, if the remainder of the expert’s opinion confirms that the expert expressed his opinion with reasonable certainty, then the opinion should be allowed into evidence as supportive of the case presented by that party offering the expert.

The court noted that an “expert fails this standard of certainty if [he] or [she] testifies that the alleged cause ‘possibly,’ or ‘could have’ led to the result, that it ‘could very properly account’ for the result, or even that it was ‘very highly probable’ that it caused the result.” See Op. at 5 [citation omitted] [bracket inserted here].

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

Source: “Article – “Court Calls for New Med Mal Trial, Reversing Ruling That Expert Testimony Was Insufficient.” By P.J. D’Annunzio Pennsylvania Law Weekly (April 30, 2020).

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