Court Reverses Judgment for Defendants in Wrongful Death Medical Malpractice Case

The Supreme Court of Oklahoma recently ruled to reverse a lower court’s decision to grant summary judgment to the defendants in a medical malpractice case that was filed by the surviving family members of a woman who died while hospitalized in 2006. The state supreme court ruled that the lower court’s findings regarding the admissibility of the plaintiffs’ proposed expert testimony were made in error, and the case should have proceeded to trial with the plaintiffs’ proposed expert witness. As a result of the latest ruling, the case will be remanded to the district court to proceed toward a settlement or trial.

Plaintiffs’ Mother and Wife Died after Being Admitted to Hospital with Intestinal Hernia

The plaintiffs in the case of Nelson v. Enid Medical Associates were the husband and son of a woman who died in July 2006, two days after arriving at the emergency room with severe abdominal pain. According to the facts discussed in the appellate ruling, the woman was treated upon her arrival at the emergency department by one of the defendants, who diagnosed her with an incarcerated hernia and possible bowel obstruction. The emergency room physician contacted a second defendant, the woman’s primary physician, who advised they consult with a surgeon to treat the hernia.

The surgeon, also a defendant in the case, arrived and manually reduced the woman’s hernia. Shortly thereafter, the woman’s vital signs became unstable, and she required surgery to address her bowel obstruction. After the surgery, the woman’s primary physician adjusted her medications, which allegedly caused her blood pressure and pulse to drop and resulted in her eventual death.

The Plaintiffs’ Proposed Expert Witness is Denied by the District Court

After the case was filed, the plaintiffs had proposed a medical expert to give testimony to show that the defendants had committed medical malpractice in treating the patient, which resulted in her death. The defendants challenged the proposed expert testimony, arguing that the expert’s reliance on animal studies and an academic article to criticize the off-label use of a medication that allegedly resulted in the patient’s death was not legally sufficient to allow him to testify as to the causation element of a medical malpractice claim.

The district court accepted the defendants’ arguments and ruled that the plaintiffs could not demonstrate causation for their claim, ultimately resolving the case in favor of the defendants. The plaintiffs appealed this ruling to the state supreme court.

State Supreme Court Disagrees with Lower Court’s Ruling

On appeal, the state supreme court reviewed the plaintiffs’ proposed expert testimony and found that it should have been admitted. Although the expert relied partially on animal tests and academic studies to form his opinion, the high court found that these were only part of what was used by the expert, and he also relied on his own clinical experience, other case studies, and a well-developed personal understanding of the appropriate dose of the medication in off-label use for treating an intestinal hernia. The state supreme court ruled that his testimony met the criteria to be admitted to the jury and that the case should proceed on that basis.

Florida Expert Witness Admissibility Requirements

Medical malpractice lawsuits in Florida almost always require expert testimony to prove the elements of a medical malpractice claim. Plaintiffs must use admissible expert testimony to demonstrate which standard of care a patient is entitled to receive, and how a deviation from that standard of care may have resulted in a patient’s injury, illness, or death. To be admissible in a Florida medical malpractice lawsuit, an expert must be qualified by their knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education. The testimony must be appropriate and relevant to the particular subject in the plaintiff’s case, and it must be supported by a sufficient basis in fact, rather than only opinion or speculation. The quality and propriety of a plaintiff’s proposed expert and his or her testimony can make or break a Florida medical malpractice case.

Contacting a Skilled Florida Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you or a loved one believes that you have been a victim of medical malpractice, making a successful case against negligent medical providers can be more difficult than it appears. Procedural and expert witness requirements must be strictly followed to preserve your right to relief. The Florida medical malpractice attorneys at Friedman Rodman & Frank have decades of experience handling Florida medical malpractice cases, and with our knowledge and representation, you can be confident that your claim will be handled correctly. Contact the Florida malpractice attorneys at Friedman Rodman & Frank to seek the compensation that you deserve. We represent clients in medical malpractice and other negligence cases across Florida. Call us at 877-448-8585 or contact us online for a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

State Supreme Court Reverses Judgment for Defendant in Wrongful Death Claim, May 12, 2016, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

State Supreme Court Rules that Post-Mortem Misconduct by Doctor Is Medical Malpractice, Reverses Damages Award, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published June 13, 2016.

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