Friday, January 15, 2021

Admissibility of Similar Expert Opinions in a Medical Malpractice Case

In the case of Snyder v. Scranton Hospital Company, LLC, No. 19-CV-83 (C.P. Lacka. Co. Dec. 14, 2020 Nealon, J.), Judge Terrence R. Nealon of the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas addressed the admissibility of the expert testimony in a medical malpractice case. 

This matter arises out of a malpractice action during which the Plaintiff alleges that he suffered permanent left ulnar damage secondary to stretching or compression trauma caused by his improper positioning and inadequate monitoring during the course of a surgery.

In support of his claims, the Plaintiff has produced expert reports from an anesthesiologist, a rheumatologist, and a nurse with regards to the relevant standards of care and medical causation, along with additional expert reports from orthopedic surgeons concerning causation and the allegedly resulting damages.

The Defendants filed a Motion In Limine seeking to limit the expert testimony that the Plaintiff intended to present. More specifically, the Defendant sought to preclude any testimony by the rheumatology expert with regards to the standard of care and causation issues. The Defendants asserted that this expert should not be permitted to testify as he is not qualified to offer opinions on the standard of care and causation under the mandates of the MCARE Act, that the expert’s opinions would be cumulative in light of the opinions being offered by the Plaintiff’s other experts, and given that the rheumatologist expert's testimony was impermissibly speculative.

After his review of the record and the expert reports, Judge Nealon found that the rheumatologist expert offered by the Plaintiff did not satisfy the standard of care familiarity, same subspeciality, and similar approved board-certification requirements set forth in §512(c) of the MCARE Act, or the “related field of medicine” criteria in §512(e) of that Act, in order to be determined to be competent to address the standard of care under the facts of this case.

However, the court also found that the rheumatologist expert offered by the Plaintiff was sufficiently qualified under §512(a)(b) of the Act in order to testify as to the medical causation.

The court additionally noted that, since the causation opinions offered by the various different types of experts presented by the Plaintiff contained discrete reasoning offered by different types of medical specialists addressing the issue of causation from distinct clinical perspectives, the causation testimony of these different experts was found to be corroborative, rather than needlessly cumulative.

The court additionally found that the defense challenges to the rheumatologist's testimony based upon Pa. R.E. 703 and Pa. R.C.P. 207.1 under an argument that the testimony was impermissibly speculative was devoid of merit. The court noted that the rheumatologist’s opinions were based upon medical reports, depositions, and other evidence in the record. It was also noted that the expert did not rely upon novel scientific evidence or methodology that has not been accepted in the field of rheumatology.

As such, the court ruled that the rheumatologist would not be allowed to testify as to the applicable standard of care, but would be allowed to testify on the causation issues.

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

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