Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Superior Court Addresses Issues Regarding Competency of Expert as well as Delay Damages

In the case of Povrzenich v. Ripepi, No. 1764 WDA 2019 (Pa. Super. March 19, 2021 Bowes, J., Olson, J., and Musmanno, J.) (Op. by Bowes, J.), the Pennsylvania Superior Court found that the trial court abused its discretion in precluding a certified life care planner from testifying in the Plaintiff’s medical malpractice case after the appellate court found that the expert had sufficient specialized knowledge and experience to offer an expert opinion regarding future medical expenses associated with the care at issue.

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff argued that the trial court’s concerns went to the weight of the testimony rather than the admissibility of the expert opinion and that the exclusion of the evidence by the trial court led to the Plaintiff’s future medical damages not being submitted to the jury.

On appeal, the Superior Court found that evidence was presented to establish that the Plaintiff’s expert has sufficient specialized knowledge and experience to offer her expert opinions. The court found that the fact that the life care planner had little experience with regards to the particular types of patients at issue in this case did not disqualify the expert from using her skills and experience to analyze the cost that would be associated with the future medical treatment required.

Notably, the appellate court also agreed that the claim for damages for future medical expenses was sufficiently independent and discrete from the other damages to permit a new trial limited to future medical expenses issues only.

The appellate court also addressed delay damages issues. The Plaintiff asserted that the trial court had erred in calculated delay damages.

According to the Opinion, the trial court excluded from the calculations of delay damages, three periods of time when the Plaintiff sought and obtained discovery extensions. Those times periods were excluded from the calculation of delay damages because those delays were attributable to the Plaintiff.

The appellate court declined to follow the trial court’s position that every extension of discovery sought by a Plaintiff in a complicated medical malpractice action constituted a delay of trial. The court noted that the trial date had not yet been set in the matter until after discovery was closed.

The case was remanded to the trial court to determine whether the Plaintiff displayed a lack of due diligence that delayed the trial during the times that the Plaintiff sought and obtained discovery extensions.

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

Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions.” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (April 6, 2021).

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