No Rule Requires Medical Experts Practice in the Same Specialty as Defendant Accused of Malpractice

Posted on: February 14th, 2019

   Plaintiff brought suit on behalf of decedent’s estate following decedent’s death.  Decedent received care for a fracture and, following placement of screws in her ankle, developed MRSA.  As a result of the infection, the physicians amputated the leg.  Plaintiff alleges medical malpractice due to failures with the surgery, monitoring of the ankle, and failing to prevent the spread of MRSA.

Plaintiff designated Dr. Hull as an expert to testify as to standard of care.  Dr. Hull is an epidemiologist with experience in infectious disease control.  Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, contending Dr. Hull was not qualified to discuss the standard of care.  After the district court denied the motion, Defendants filed an interlocutory appeal.

The Iowa Court of Appeals outlined Iowa law, noting that medical malpractice requires an expert who has qualifications to discuss the medical problem and the type of treatment administered in the case.  The Court further noted that an expert must be generally qualified in a field of expertise.

The Defendants contended that Dr. Hull was not qualified because his expertise does not relate directly to the medical problem and treatment administered.  The Court noted that Dr. Hull testified that the physician at hand failed to culture pus from a wound discovered prior to the MRSA diagnosis.  Dr. Hull testified that the infection was first treated with ineffective antibiotics and a culture of the pus would have correctly illustrated the MRSA diagnosis and allowed treatment with the proper antibiotics.

Defendants argued that because Dr. Hull was not an orthopedic surgeon, had not performed surgery, has never diagnosed or treated a patient infected with MRSA, that he cannot offer an expert opinion that the MRSA was not properly detected and treated.   The Court disagreed.  Instead, the Court found that these arguments went to the weight of Dr. Hull’s testimony, not his qualifications as an expert.  The Court agreed with the district court finding that Dr. Hull was qualified to testify as to the medical problem and type of treatment administered.  As such, the Court affirmed the district court denial of Defendants’ motion for summary judgment, holding that Dr. Hull was qualified as an expert, subject to plaintiff’s showing at trial.


Vezeau-Crouch v. Abraham, No. 17-1213, 2019 WL 141362, at *3 (Iowa Ct. App. Jan. 9, 2019)


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