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When is a Medical Malpractice Expert Qualified?

Doctor covering his face with hand.

Medical malpractice cases can be complicated. To bring a medical malpractice lawsuit, you not only need to establish all of the elements of a typical personal injury matter (proving you were injured by someone else’s negligent conduct, calculating your damages, etc.), you must also show that the physician’s conduct was outside of the bounds of reasonable medical practice which can only be done by the opinion of a qualified medical expert… Medical malpractice cases often turn on the opinions of competing experts retained by the plaintiff and defendant, which in turn leads to personal attacks on the qualifications of each expert. If your expert is not sufficiently “qualified,” then you do not get to use their opinion as evidence, which can be fatal to your case. A Texas appellate court recently addressed when a physician may still be a qualified expert even without practicing the actual procedure at issue in the case. Continue reading for details on the case, and contact a seasoned Texas personal injury lawyer if you have been harmed by a negligent health care provider.

A medical expert can be generally qualified in the field, even if they haven’t personally performed the specific procedure at issue

The case of Jones v. Waggoner involved a doctor who performed an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) on the plaintiff. ERCP is an invasive procedure combining upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy (inserting an endoscope camera into a patient’s digestive system) and x-rays to treat problems involving the liver, pancreas, gallbladder, or bile. Dr. Jones suspected the patient had a gallstone. The ERCP found no gallstone, and the plaintiff suffered serious internal emphysema following the procedure. The plaintiff sued, claiming that Dr. Jones breached the standard of care by performing the ERCP before running other noninvasive tests to determine whether the ERCP was actually necessary.

The Texas Medical Liability Act requires plaintiffs to submit an expert report as part of their medical malpractice case. The report need not completely prove the claim, but it must show that a qualified medical expert believes the patient could prove their claim. To be qualified to make opinions as to whether a physician departed from the acceptable standard of care, an expert must:

Practice medicine at the time of the testimony or at the time the claim arose;

Have knowledge of the relevant accepted standard of care for diagnosis, treatment, etc., regarding the claimed injury; and

Be qualified on the basis of training or experience to opine on the acceptable standards of medical care.

The Defendant moved to exclude the plaintiff’s expert as unqualified, in particular because the expert had not performed a similar procedure to the one at issue in at least 15 years. The appeals court rejected the motion. The expert doctor was board certified in both internal medicine and gastroenterology, was licensed to practice in two states, provided direct patient care as part of his duties as a teacher at a medical school, acted as a consulting physician for other doctors in the field, and has treated other patients with issues similar to the plaintiff’s condition. The court found these qualifications sufficient even though the expert had not performed the medical procedure in over a decade. The expert was thus permitted to opine that a less invasive diagnostic procedure could have prevented the damage caused by the ERCP, allowing the plaintiff to continue her case against the defendant.

Call the Gilbert Adams Law Offices after a Medical Malpractice Injury

If you or someone you love has been injured by a negligent doctor or other medical malpractice in Texas, contact the seasoned and passionate Beaumont personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at the Gilbert Adams Law Offices for help seeking the damages you’re owed by calling 409-835-3000 for a free consultation.

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