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State Supreme Court Rules On Expert Witness Dispute

  • On Behalf Of Edmiston & Colton
  • Published: October 5, 2018

One of the more important elements of medical malpractice cases is expert testimony. Most people in Billings may lack the medical knowledge and expertise needed to challenge a clinician’s actions or decision-making. Thus, one who has similar expertise as those who are the subject of a medical negligence claim is typically needed to offer an educated opinion as to whether said parties acted appropriately. The process of qualifying an expert witness goes beyond simply saying one is so, however. Plaintiffs must follow the state’s processes for doing so or risk having the basis of their cases challenged.

A case recently argued before the state Supreme Court in Florida illustrates this point. The defendants in a medical malpractice lawsuit brought by the estate of a local woman argued that the expert witness that the plaintiff presented was unqualified. The expert in question had been pursuing educational opportunities immediately prior to the events of the case. The defendants argued that this meant that the proposed expert did not meet the standard of being “duly and regularly engaged” in the practice she was asked to testify on (which is a requirement to qualify an expert witness in Florida).

A local circuit court agreed with the defendants and dismissed the case. The Supreme Court, however, reversed that ruling, with one judge stating that the expert’s decades of cumulative experience in the field in question prior to her taking a break qualified her to offer an expert opinion.

Knowing who can and cannot be an expert witness can be difficult. However, one may find it easier to properly identify and certify a witness in such a role if they have the advice and assistance of an attorney to rely on.

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