Supreme Court Makes Important Ruling on Expert Testimony

Posted on Nov 05, 2013

In this case, a woman filed a claim for medical negligence against a neurosurgeon, claiming the the neurosurgeon negligently intsalled a fixation plate during a cervical surgery.  At trial, the Plaintiff called a biomechanist to testify about the proper placement and positioning of the fixation plate.  In Oregon, a Plaintiff must show that a doctor's treatment was below the "standard of care" in order to prove a medical negligence claim.  The "standard of care" generally refers what is considered "reasonable care" in a particular medical community.  Typically, this is proven by having a medical doctor testify on this issue.

The Court focused not on whether the expert was a medical doctor, but instead, whether the expert would be qualified to testify as an expert in a certain area of knowledge.  This ruling rejected the defendant's argument that only medical doctors are qualified to testify about the standard of care.

This does not mean that anyone can testify as an expert.  Any expert must be first qualified as an expert by the questioning attorney.  This includes questions about the expert's education and experience.  Often times, experts will have authored medical journal articles or other academic papers.

We have handled cases where the defendant has called biomechanists as experts, but the subject of their testimony was whether or not a certain type of force causd injury.  Many times, courts will exclude this kind of testimony because the science that these experts rely upon is not generally reliable.

Some cases will turn on what an expert witness will say at a trial.  If you have an injury claim with questions about whether experts will be required to prove your case, call us at 503-325-8600.  We work with expert witnesses regularly.