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A medical specialist is required by La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 2315 and 2316 and La. Rev. Stat. Ann § 9:2794, to exercise the degree of care and possess the degree of knowledge or skill ordinarily exercised and possessed by physicians within his medical specialty. The plaintiff seeking to prove that a medical specialist failed to adhere to these standards of care or skill is not limited to expert medical testimony by witnesses practicing or familiar with the standards of care and skill within the defendant specialist's community or locality. However, evidence of the local facilities and resources available, as well as evidence of other pertinent local conditions, is also admissible and should be considered by the trier of fact in determining whether a physician exhibiting the care, knowledge and skill ordinarily exhibited by physicians within the involved medical speciality would have acted or failed to act in the manner of the defendant doctor at the time in question.
A patient died on the operating table while a surgeon was using certain tubing. The patient's wife sued several defendants, including the tubing manufacturer and the surgeon. Defendant manufacturer brought a third-party action against the surgeon. At trial, the surgeon testified that it was not customary to test the tubing before use. A surgeon from another city, who would have testified to the contrary, was ruled incompetent to testify because he was not local. The court dismissed the actions against the surgeon. The intermediate court affirmed. Defendant manufacturer appealed.
Was it proper to disqualify an expert medical witness on the ground that he was not familiar with local standards of care?
On appeal, the court reversed and remanded. The trial court erred by disallowing the testimony of the out-of-town doctor under the locality rule; a medical specialist must only, under La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 2315 and 2316 and La. Rev. Stat. Ann § 9:2794, possess the degree of knowledge ordinarily exercised by physicians within his medical specialty to be competent to testify. The court thus overruled the locality rule of Meyer v. St. Paul-Mercury Indemnity Co., 225 La. 618, 73 So.2d 781 (La. 1953). The jury, however, was entitled to hear evidence of relevant local conditions.