Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
Testimony from a qualified expert, who has knowledge about the standard of care that is helpful to the trier of fact, is admissible, and there no principled reason why such testimony is necessarily insufficient to establish the standard of care in a medical malpractice case merely because that testimony comes from an expert who is not a medical doctor. Consistent with this court's cases involving expert qualification and the admissibility of expert testimony, which consider the knowledge of each individual expert, the court rejects a rule requiring expert testimony from a medical doctor to survive a motion for a directed verdict on the issue of negligence in a medical malpractice case.
Dr. Ordonez, a neurosurgeon, performed surgery on Peggy Trees that involved installing a plate made by Synthes ("Synthes plate") on Trees’ cervical spine. Following the surgery, Trees’ health deteriorated, and she ultimately sustained permanent injuries. Trees brought this negligence action against Dr. Ordonez and Greater Portland Neurosurgical Center, P.C., alleging, among other things, that Dr. Ordonez had failed to properly place and secure the Synthes plate and its screws, resulting in damage to Trees’ esophagus that led to other injuries. At trial, Trees presented expert testimony from Dr. Tencer, a biomechanical engineer who is not a medical doctor, about the design, use, and installation of the Synthes plate; however, no medical doctor testified that defendant had breached the standard of care. At the close of Trees’ evidence, the court granted defendant's motion for a directed verdict on the standard of care and breach because, although Dr. Tencer's testimony established the "ideal" placement of the Synthes plate, the court determined that defendant's conduct had to be compared to that of other neurosurgeons. The Court of Appeals affirmed, concluding that Dr. Tencer's testimony had "failed to bridge the gap between the biomechanical construct of the plate and the methods with which they were intended to be installed and whether compliance with those same methods as a medical matter set the standard of care for [defendant.]"
Was Trees required to present expert testimony from a medical doctor to establish the standard of care and breach of the standard of care?
The court found that Trees provided sufficient evidence to go to the jury on the question of whether the neurosurgeon who installed a medical device on her cervical spine was negligent because she introduced evidence about design, use, and installation from a biomechanical engineer who, although not a medical doctor, was familiar with the use of the device; expert testimony from a medical doctor was not required to establish the standard of care under Or. Rev. Stat. § 677.095(1). A directed verdict was not required as to causation because experts testified about the position and location of screws in relation to the patient's esophagus, at least one expert testified that the most likely explanation for the patient's symptoms was a perforated esophagus, and her esophagus healed after the screws were removed.