The following blog entry is written from a defendant’s position as trial approaches. Reviewing this kind of briefing should help potential plaintiffs and clients better understand how parties in personal injury cases present such issues to the court.
(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this medical malpractice case and its proceedings.)
It is worth noting that situations similar to those described in this case could just as easily occur at any of the healthcare facilities in the area, such as Kaiser Permanente, UCSF Medical Center, San Francisco General, California Pacific Medical Center, or St. Francis Memorial Hospital.
The competency of a witness to testify is a preliminary fact to be determined by the Court, not the trier of fact. Evidence Code sections 403, 405; Cooper v. Bd. Med. Exam (1975) 49 Cal.App.3d 931, 945. Courts have the obligation to contain expert testimony within the area of professional expertise, and to require adequate foundation for the opinion. Korsak v. Atlas Hotels, Inc. (1992) 2 Cal.App.4th 1516, 1523 [reversible error to admit foundationally defective expert testimony]. Upon challenge, an expert witness’s qualifications must be established before that witness is permitted to testify. Evidence Code section 720(a). The burden is on the proponent of the expert testimony to demonstrate the witness’s qualifications to testify. Evidence Code section 720. The incompetency of a witness to testify to certain matters renders that witness’s testimony inadmissible. Evidence Code section 720. For more information you are welcome to contact San Francisco personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.
Case law establishes that a medical doctor is not automatically qualified to render expert opinions in all areas of medicine.
Without first demonstrating evidence of the necessary skill, knowledge, and training relevant to the field of medicine at issue, the witness may not be permitted to render expert testimony. Pierce v. Linde (1952) 113 Cal.App.2d 627 (Court of Appeal upheld the trial court’s exclusion of Plaintiff’s internal medicine speicalist who had no experience or expertise in orthopedics, or any other branch of surgery.); Putensen v. Clay Adams (1970) 12 Cal.App.3d 1062 (surgeon not qualified to testify to the alleged defect in the tubing that kinked during surgery, even though that surgeon had performed over 100 previous heart catheterizations using the same type and roll of tubing); Miller v. Silver (1986) 181 Cal.App.3d 652 (psychiatrist, although a medical doctor, did not qualify to render opinions as to matters of surgery); Salasguevara v. Wyeth Laboratories, Inc. (1990) 222 Cal.App.3d 379 (pediatrician not qualified to render medical experts opinions or testimony as to the issue of medical causation). (See Part 6 of 9.)
For more information you are welcome to contact San Francisco personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.