(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this medical malpractice/birth injury 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, U.C. Davis Medical Center, Mercy, or Sutter.
EXPERT TESTIMONY IS ESSENTIAL TO DETERMINE LIABILITY IN A MEDICAL MALPRACTICE ACTION
In a medical malpractice action, the requisite standard of care is determined by the applicable standard of care then existing in the particular professional community. Barton v. Owen (1977) 71 Cal.App.3d 484, 139 Cal.Rptr. 494. In Linderos v. Flood (1976) 170 Cal.3d 399, 551 P.2d 389, 131 Cal.Rptr. 69, the Supreme Court determined that the standard of care against which the acts of physicians are measured is a matter within the knowledge of experts and can only be proven by their testimony. The rationale for requiring expert testimony in medical malpractice actions was succinctly stated by the court in Barton:
In most instances there is a need for expert testimony on the subject of just what constitutes medical negligence, because the average judge or juror does not possess the necessary level of knowledge about medical malpractice to decide on its own whether the doctor was negligent. Barton at 494, 139 Cal.Rptr. at 499.
The role of expert testimony in a medical malpractice action was explained in Willard v. Hagenmeister (1981) 121 Cal.App.3d 406, 175 Cal.Rptr. 365. In Willard, the court was called upon to review the granting of a summary judgment motion in favor of the defendant dentist, where defendants secured declarations of experts to support his motion for summary judgment. In describing the weight to be given such expert testimony, the court stated:
Expert evidence in a malpractice suit is conclusive as to the proof of the prevailing standard of care and learning in the locality and of the propriety of particular conduct by the practitioner in particular instances because such standard and skill is not a matter of general knowledge and can only be supplied by expert testimony. Willard at 413, 175 Cal.Rptr. 385.
Here, the only material issue raised is whether or not Stuart White, M.D., fell below the standard of care during his emergency care and treatment of plaintiff Amy Brown on May 25, 1999. However, the undisputed facts demonstrate that Dr. White, at no time in his treatment of Amy Brown, fell below the standard of care in the community where he practices, nor did he cause or contribute to plaintiff’s injuries. In fact, as his declaration illustrates, Dr. White’s care and treatment of plaintiff was both correct and within the standard of care required of a reasonable neonatologist practicing in the professional community. (See Part 6 of 9.)
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.