Last month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Texas wrongful death case involving allegations of medical malpractice. The case required the court to determine if the lower court correctly concluded that the testimony of the plaintiff’s expert was conclusory, and thus “no evidence.” Ultimately, the court found that each of the expert’s opinions was supported either by his experience or by his review of medical literature.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff had an episode where he became disoriented and confused while in a gas station parking lot. The plaintiff was taken to the hospital, where a series of tests were performed. The plaintiff was then referred to a neurologist.
The neurologist reviewed the tests and believed that the plaintiff suffered from aqueductal stenosis, which can lead to hydrocephalus (a build-up of fluid in the brain). The neurologist determined that a shunt should be placed in the plaintiff’s brain, and referred the plaintiff to a neurosurgeon.
The neurosurgeon met with the plaintiff and agreed that a shunt was a common solution. However, the neurosurgeon did not place a shunt and instead placed a brain in the plaintiff’s brain to monitor the intracranial pressure for 24 hours. After 24 hours, the neurosurgeon determined a shunt was not necessary at that time, but that one would be required in the future.
The plaintiff later suffered another similar episode of confusion and disorientation, and went back to see the neurologist. The neurologist determined that the plaintiff’s aqueductal stenosis had worsened, but failed to inform the neurosurgeon. The plaintiff died in his sleep a short time later. The cause of the plaintiff’s death, according to the medical examiner, was hydrocephalus as a result of aqueductal stenosis.
The plaintiff filed a Texas medical malpractice lawsuit against both doctors. In support of his claim, the plaintiff presented the testimony of two expert witnesses. The court accepted both experts, and the jury returned a verdict in the plaintiff’s favor. On appeal, the appellate court reversed the jury’s verdict based on the fact that the expert’s testimony was conclusory, and thus was considered as no evidence. As a result, the court held that the plaintiff could not establish the causation element of her claim. The plaintiff appealed.
On appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, the case was again reversed, this time in favor of the plaintiff. The court explained that an expert’s testimony is conclusory if “he asks the jury to take his word that his opinion is correct but offers no basis for his opinion or the bases offered do not actually support the opinion; or he offers only his word that the bases offered to support his opinion actually exist or support his opinion.”
Here, the court held that the expert’s testimony was not conclusory. The court reasoned that each of the expert’s opinions was based either on his experience treating patients with aqueductal stenosis or on research that he had conducted.
The court acknowledged that while, “experience alone may provide a sufficient basis for an expert opinion … experience may not be sufficient in every case.” Thus, an expert’s reliance on medical literature is preferred, but is not necessary in every case. Here, the court held that the plaintiff’s expert “undoubtedly could have provided more solid support for his conclusion,” but that each of his opinions was supported either by his experience or research. Thus, the court held that the jury verdict should be reinstated.
Have You been the Victim of Texas Medical Malpractice?
If you or someone you care about has recently been injured due to a healthcare professional’s negligence, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Texas medical malpractice lawsuit. At the law firm of Carabin Shaw, we represent clients in all types of Texas personal injury cases, including medical malpractice claims. To learn more about how we can help you recover for your injuries, call 800-862-1260 to schedule a free consultation.
The Legal Doctrine of Negligent Entrustment in Texas Car Accident Cases, Texas Injury Lawyers Blog, December 11, 2018
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Court Finds State Liable for Injuries Caused by Drop-off on Road’s Edge, Texas Injury Lawyers Blog, October 19, 2018