Personal Injury Law
LegalSpeak: Pennsylvania court on the need for expert testimony in medical malpractice cases—Grossman v. Barke (Pa.Super 2005)
One of the most distinguishing features of a medical malpractice suit is, in most cases, the need for expert testimony, which may be necessary to elucidate complex medical issues to a jury of laypersons. In other words, “[b]ecause the negligence of a physician encompasses matters not within the ordinary knowledge and experience of laypersons[,] a medical malpractice plaintiff must present expert testimony to establish the applicable standard of care, the deviation from that standard, causation and the extent of the injury.” Id.
The expert testimony requirement in a medical malpractice action means that a plaintiff must present medical expert testimony to establish that the care and treatment of the plaintiff by the defendant fell short of the required standard of care and that the breach proximately caused the plaintiff’s injury. Hence, causation is also a matter generally requiring expert testimony.
Indeed, “a jury of laypersons generally lacks the knowledge to determine the factual issues of medical causation; the degree of skill, knowledge, and experience required of the physician; and the breach of the medical standard of care.” Id. at 1149. In such cases, “[t]he cause and effect of a physical condition lies in a field of knowledge in which only a medical expert can give a competent opinion …. [Without experts] we feel that the jury could have no basis other than conjecture, surmise or speculation upon which to consider causation.”