Expert testimony is often the linchpin of a medical malpractice case. The words of an expert can help the jury understand medical terminology while also establishing the requisite standard of care and whether or not the defendant(s) breached that standard. However, while such testimony can be helpful, there are rules that govern whether the testimony should be heard. Sometimes the lower court may allow testimony that should have been excluded, leaving the higher court to reverse the decision to allow the testimony. This was the scenario in a Virginia medical malpractice case that involved the death of a young boy.
The plaintiff, Mariam Toraish who was the mother of the now deceased Adam Toraish, filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Dr. James J. Lee based upon claims that Dr. Lee negligently performed a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy surgery which led to her son’s death.
Dr. Lee originally performed a sleep study on the plaintiff’s son where he concluded that a tonsillectomy and an adenoidectomy were necessary. Both surgeries were performed without any complications. Post-surgery, the boy was transferred to the anesthesia unit where he was monitored and ultimately discharged with instructions to take medication every five hours. Once home, the plaintiff gave her son the medication. Hours later she found that her son had died due to cardiac arrhythmia of unknown etiology.
The lawsuit stated that the boy had a high risk for postoperative respiratory compromise because of a case of severe sleep apnea. The plaintiff claimed that Dr. Lee violated the applicable standard of care by not ordering overnight monitoring of the boy.
At trial, the trial court allowed the expert testimony of Dr. Simeon Boyd. Dr. Boyd stated that the boy likely died of cardiac arrest due to Brugada syndrome. The jury of the lower court found in favor of Dr. Lee.
On appeal, an argument was made that the damaging testimony of Dr. Boyd should not have been allowed since it was not based on a factual foundation. The Supreme Court analyzed the testimony, stating that expert testimony is generally admissible if it will aid the trier of fact in understanding the evidence but so long as the testimony is based on adequate foundation. With that in mind, the court reversed the lower court’s decision, holding that Dr. Boyd’s testimony should not have been admitted because it was based upon an assumption that had no basis in fact.
If you have been injured by a physician’s neglect, attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian will work to get you the full compensation to which you are entitled. Call 800-529-6162 today or contact them online for a free case evaluation. They handle cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.
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