Ohio Supreme Court Overturns Medical Malpractice Defense Verdict Because Its Expert Wasn’t Qualified

In its slip opinion dated September 22, 2021, the Ohio Supreme Court overturned a defense verdict in a medical malpractice case because the defense medical expert was not qualified to provide testimony in the case. The Ohio Supreme Court held: “a physician employed in an executive position who does not directly oversee physicians who treat patients does not satisfy the active-clinical-practice requirement of Evid.R. 601. Because Walls did not satisfy the active-clinical-practice requirement of the rule, we affirm the decision of the First District.”

“We take this opportunity to make it clear that courts lack the discretion to make errors of law, particularly when the trial court’s decision goes against the plain language of a statute or rule. In this case, the First District correctly determined that a physician employed in an executive position who does not directly oversee physicians engaged in treating patients does not satisfy the plain language of the active-clinical-practice requirement of Evid.R. 601. Because the trial court committed an error of law in determining otherwise, and because the error was not harmless, see 2019-Ohio-4861, 136 N.E.3d 581, at ¶ 30-32, we affirm the First District’s judgment.”

Evid.R. 601(B)

Evid.R. 601(B) provides in relevant part that a person is disqualified to testify as a witness when the court determines that the person is

(5) * * * giving expert testimony on the issue of liability in any medical claim, as defined in R.C. 2305.113, asserted in any civil action against a physician, podiatrist, or hospital arising out of the diagnosis, care, or treatment of any person by a physician or podiatrist, unless:
* * *
(b) The person devotes at least one-half of his or her professional time to the active clinical practice in his or her field of licensure, or to its instruction in an accredited school.

The Ohio Supreme Court stated that the definition of “active clinical practice” is not so narrow as to include only the physician who is in direct contact with the patient at his bedside and must include the work of doctors “directly involved in the care of the patient,” because those doctors’ “ministrations form inseparable parts of that patient’s care” and their expertise is necessary to determine any fault or responsibility. Thus, “active clinical practice” necessarily includes the work typical of pathologists, radiologists, hematologists.”

The purpose of the statute is to preclude testimony by the physician who earns his living or spends much of his time testifying against his fellows as a professional witness, and to prevent those whose lack of experiential background in the very field they seek to judge, the clinical practitioner, makes the validity of their opinions suspect, from expressing those opinions for pay or otherwise.

Source Johnson v. Abdullah, Slip Opinion No. 2021-Ohio-3304.

If you or a loved one may have been injured (or worse) as a result of medical malpractice in Ohio or in another U.S. state, you should promptly seek the legal advice of an Ohio medical malpractice lawyer, or a medical malpractice lawyer in your state, who may assist you in investigating your medical malpractice claim and represent you or your loved one in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.

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This entry was posted on Monday, October 18th, 2021 at 5:26 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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