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New York Court Discusses Expert Qualifications in Medical Malpractice Cases

Most doctors undergo training for their specialty and have little experience working in other areas. This does not mean that a doctor can only offer expert testimony in medical cases involving the precise area of their practice, however. Instead, as shown in a recent New York opinion, a doctor can offer expert testimony outside of their field if they are otherwise qualified. If you were hurt by a negligent doctor, it is in your best interest to speak to a Syracuse medical malpractice lawyer about what evidence you need to produce to demonstrate liability.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the decedent, who was 61 years old, presented to the emergency department of the defendant hospital with complaints of shortness of breath. He underwent a chest x-ray and was diagnosed with pneumonia. The radiologist that interpreted his chest x-ray noted that he had a normal-sized heart, and his lungs showed mild bibasilar interstitial prominence. He was subsequently discharged with a prescription for antibiotics and a directive to follow up with his primary care doctor.

Reportedly, he underwent a second chest x-ray that showed his heart was at the upper limit of normal, and his lungs were clear. He continued to suffer from chest pain and shortness of breath. Approximately six months later, he died from systolic heart failure and dilated cardiomyopathy. His wife then filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital and the radiologists who interpreted his chest x-rays. The defendants moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the plaintiff’s experts were not qualified to offer opinions on the standard of care that applied to radiologists. The court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

Expert Qualifications in Medical Malpractice Cases

On appeal, the court reversed the trial court ruling. The court explained that summary judgment is not appropriate in cases where, as in the subject matter, the parties adduced conflicting expert reports. Further, the court found that despite the defendants’ arguments to the contrary, the plaintiff’s experts were qualified to offer expert opinions in the case, despite the fact that they were not board certified in radiology.

The court explained that a physician does not need to be a specialist in a certain field to qualify as a medical expert in a medical malpractice case. Rather, their alleged lack of expertise or knowledge goes to the weight of their testimony rather than the admissibility. As the plaintiff’s experts set forth an adequate foundation for the basis of their opinions, the court found that they raised a triable issue of fact. As such, it reversed the trial court ruling.

Talk to an Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorney

Doctors that carelessly perform their professional duties often harm, rather than help, patients, and in many cases, they may be liable for medical malpractice. If you sustained damages due to negligent medical care, it is advisable to speak to an attorney regarding your rights. The experienced Syracuse medical malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers are adept at proving incompetent healthcare providers should be held accountable, and if you hire us, we will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact us through our form online or by calling us at 833-247-8427 to set up a conference.

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