The Supreme Court of Alabama (“Alabama Supreme Court”), in its opinion dated January 10, 2020, overturned a verdict in favor of the Alabama medical malpractice plaintiff, finding that the plaintiff’s expert was not qualified: “Dr. Doblar did not give any testimony demonstrating that he was “licensed by the appropriate regulatory board or agency of this or some other state.” § 6-5-548(c)(1). Therefore, based on the plain language of the statute, Dr. Doblar was not qualified to testify “concerning the standard of care [Dr. Youngblood] ought to have exercised …, and the trial court exceeded the permissible limits of its discretion in ruling that [Dr. Doblar’s] testimony was admissible.””
The Alabama Supreme Court explained that a plaintiff in an Alabama medical malpractice action ordinarily must present expert testimony from a “similarly situated health-care provider” as to (1) the appropriate standard of care, (2) a deviation from that standard [of care], and (3) a proximate causal connection between the defendant’s act or omission constituting the breach and the injury sustained by the plaintiff. The reason for the rule that proximate causation must be established through expert testimony is that the issue of causation in a medical malpractice case is ordinarily beyond the ken of the average layman. The plaintiff must prove through expert testimony that the alleged negligence probably caused the injury.
§ 6-5-548, Ala. Code 1975, concerns the proof required in an action alleging injury or wrongful death against a healthcare provider based on a breach of the standard of care, and it enumerates the requirements a “similarly situated health care provider” must meet, including: “one who meets all of the following requirements: (1) Is licensed by the appropriate regulatory board or agency of this or some other state. (2) Is trained and experienced in the same specialty. (3) Is certified by an appropriate American board in the same specialty. (4) Has practiced in this specialty during the year preceding the date that the alleged breach of the standard of care occurred.”
The Alabama Supreme Court held: “Dr. Doblar’s testimony was inadmissible; therefore, Mr. Martin did not present any evidence to the jury indicating that Dr. Youngblood breached the relevant standard of care and, further, that any such breach proximately caused Mrs. Martin’s death. Accordingly, there was no admissible evidence, let alone substantial evidence, creating a factual dispute requiring resolution by the jury, and the trial court should have granted Dr. Youngblood’s motion for a JML. Based on our holding, we pretermit discussion of Dr. Youngblood’s remaining arguments. Because Dr. Doblar was not qualified to testify under §6-5-548, the trial court should have entered a JML in favor of Dr. Youngblood. Accordingly, the judgment is reversed and the cause is remanded for the trial court to enter a JML in favor of Dr. Youngblood.”
Source Youngblood v. Martin, 1171037.
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