Plaintiff Bryan Wright was stayed at the Residence Inn by Marriott in Horsham, Pennsylvania. While walking outside on the pavement, Wright slipped on a patch of ice. He sustained injuries to the shoulder and hip that required arthroscopic surgery. A Philadelphia jury heard this slip-and-fall case and awarded roughly $64,000 in damages to Wright. Recently, the Pennsylvania Superior Court ordered a new trial based on an error associated with the testimony of an expert witness.
The plaintiff had planned to use Dr. Paul Sedacca as a medical expert witness; however, a defense motion to exclude his testimony was granted because he was not determined to be qualified. Dr. Sedacca was a licensed physician in Pennsylvania in the field of internal medicine—not orthopedics. Internal medicine is described as a field that “encompasses all aspects of medicine.” During his residency training, he had some experience in orthopedics, general surgery, and neurosurgery.
Kovalev v. Sowell
Marriott referenced this case from 2003 that involved Dr. Kovalev, a physician who had been injured in a car accident. He represented himself during the trial and attempted to offer his own medical expertise in testimony. The court found that he was insufficiently qualified to provide expertise on orthopedic injuries, as he was a psychiatrist.
Judge Deborah Kunselman wrote an explanation that explained the lower court's error. Her explanation stated that Dr. Sedacca had “dealt with patients in his practice that have orthopedic or shoulder-type injuries.” She cited the case of Miller v. Brass Rail Tavern and felt that Sedacca “possessed a reasonable pretension to specialized knowledge.” The judges felt that excluding Sedacca's opinion was improper because it did not allow the plaintiff to fairly present his case.
Although Wright had been awarded damages, it is likely that he may have a better result in a new trial with sufficient medical expert testimony. In the prior case, the majority of the testimony was “subjective.” Wright plans to present evidence of the long-term consequences of his injuries. It is likely that his award for noneconomic damages, particularly future medical costs and pain and suffering, could increase.
The appellate court found that the earlier trial did sufficiently litigate the topic of negligence. The new trial ordered will solely be to reassess the damages and it is likely that the plaintiff will elaborate on causation. Wright's attorney was happy to hear the news and is preparing for the next trial. The prior award for damages included approximately $8,896 for medical costs, a type of economic damages, and roughly $55,000 for noneconomic damages.
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons explained that this specialty focuses on the musculoskeletal system. This may involve joints, bones, muscles, tendons, and other parts of the body that allow for activity and movement. Most orthopedic surgeons specialize in some specific area of practice. Common examples include those focused on treating the foot and ankle, knees, shoulders, hips, etc. Others specialize in treating a certain classification in their practice such as pediatrics, emergencies, or those who have suffered sports-related injuries.