In medical malpractice cases, expert testimony is critically important. After all, an expert must testify as to the standard of care expected out of a medical professional and what a reasonable physician, nurse or attendant should have (or would have) done in a given situation. As such, a surgeon would likely serve as an expert witness in a matter involving a surgical mistake. A sports medicine physician would likely testify in a matter involving an athlete’s malpractice claim.
When it comes to malpractice cases involving birth injuries, would it be appropriate to have a midwife testify about the expectations of nurses in a delivery room? The Georgia Court of Appeals recently dealt with this question, and found that it would be proper for a licensed midwife to testify about the conduct and expectations of attending nurses.
At issue was whether the nurses were negligent when misinterpreting a fetus’ vitals before birth. The baby experienced a period of prolonged oxygen deprivation during labor, causing it to be born with severe brain damage.
After the plaintiff was awarded more than $13 million in damages, the hospital appealed, arguing that the midwife who testified was not qualified to render a professional opinion about the nurses since she was not one herself, and that her experience as a midwife was insufficient. However, the court ruled that the midwife had extensive experience, including being a registered nurse before completing additional training to become a certified midwife. She had spent a number of years working closely with registered nurses as part of a labor team.
While the case itself does not carry much weight in New York, it is a reminder that professionals with experience may be useful witnesses even if they are not exactly in the same field.