Can a Court Prevent a Medical Expert from Testifying?

In January, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed a trial court’s decision to prevent a doctor from testifying as a medical expert in a personal injury lawsuit involving an injury that was allegedly the result of a car accident.

The case in question involved a 2012 car accident where a vehicle was stopped at a red light in Philadelphia when it was rear-ended by another car. Following the wreck, the driver in the car that had rear-ended the other vehicle argued that the light was green and that the brake lights on the car that she hit were not illuminated.

Police arrived at the accident scene, but no one involved in the collision requested medical attention at that time. However, the driver of the vehicle that was rear-ended made his way to the ER later that day. After he was examined, he was prescribed a muscle relaxer for back and neck pain. A week later, he went to a rehabilitation facility to begin physical therapy for his neck and back pain. However, after six months, he stopped going to physical therapy because he did not believe it was working.

In 2014, the man filed an injury lawsuit against the driver that rear-ended in his vehicle in 2012. The man’s lawyer recommended that he seek medical treatment at a facility in Oaks, Pennsylvania. The staff at the facility in Oaks referred him to North American Spine and Pain Center. At North American Spine and Pain Center, the man had a medical procedure known as a rhizotomy performed on parts of his cervical spine in attempt to relieve his neck and back pain.

Why Was the Doctor Prevented from Testifying as a Medical Expert?

During the injury lawsuit trial, the attorney representing the defendant in the case filed a motion to limit a doctor’s testimony about what a rhizotomy procedure is and whether it was necessary or reasonable for the plaintiff to undergo the procedure under the circumstances. The reason that the defendants argued that the doctor’s testimony should be limited was because his knowledge of rhizotomy procedures was not sufficient. As a result, the defendants argued the doctor’s testimony as a medical expert was invalid. Following an oral argument, the court decided that the doctor’s knowledge of rhizotomies was insufficient to be considered expert testimony and, therefore, would be limited.

The trial resulted in the defendant being found negligent for causing the accident. However, the plaintiff was not awarded non-economic damages, because the jury did not find in its verdict that he had suffered a serious impairment of a bodily function due to the wreck. The plaintiffs appealed the limiting of the doctor’s testimony, believing his full testimony could help them recover non-economic damages. However, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania upheld the trial court’s ruling upon appeal.

In the video below, personal injury attorney Daniel Jeck discusses the importance of having competent medical experts and an attorney who will not stop until the truth is uncovered representing you.

As founder and senior shareholder of the firm, personal injury lawyer Stewart J. Eisenberg has represented victims of catastrophic injury and wrongful death for more than 35 years. He is one of the region’s most accomplished trial lawyers, with a long list of awards and recognition.