In Schnear v. Boldrey (1972) 22 Cal. App.3d 642, plaintiffs appealed a judgment for neurosurgeon Dr. Boldrey on the ground that the trial court had committed error in allowing defendant’s expert to speculate as to the possible causes for plaintiff’s blindness following neurosurgery. The First District Court disagreed, stating that:“… The context and totality of his testimony clearly shows that he was testifying as to medical probabilities, giving what in the light of medical science appeared to be the most probable explanation of the event.” Schnear v. Boldrey, supra, 22 Cal. App.3d at p. 484.
Even where a case goes to the jury with a res ipsa loquitur instruction, medical experts are still required to testify to probabilities rather than bare possibilities or conjecture. In Hale v. Venuto (1982) 137 Cal. App.3d 910, 919, 187 Cal. Rptr. 357, the court found that expert testimony to establish probability of negligence (where plaintiff suffered neurological damage after knee surgery) “need only afford reasonable support for an inference of negligence from the happening of the accident alone,” citing Tomei v. Henning (1967) 67 Cal.2d 319, 431 P.2d 633, where the issue was negligence in suturing plaintiff’s ureter during a hysterectomy.
Where a defense expert speculates as to the cause of plaintiffs’ damages, standard of care, causation and the surrounding circumstances the testimony should be excluded. It is the mere speculation as to possible damage that the plaintiffs seek to preclude on the grounds that they are irrelevant, or, if slightly probative, that jurors will be confused and misled on what amounts to mere speculation, guess work and conjecture.
If competent medical testimony cannot be established by reasonable medical probability, the jury should not be allowed to consider any doctor’s opinions as to mere possibilities, speculation or conjecture.
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.