Allegedly Negligent Anesthesiology Treatment Causes Overweight Child’s Death


Anesthesiology Expert

Court: United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, Western Division
Jurisdiction: Federal
Case Name: Lovelace v. Pediatric Anesthesiologists, P.A.
Citation: 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 187775

Facts

This medical malpractice case involves an overweight 12-year-old (about 5’10” and 180 pounds) who was placed in a prone position while recovering from a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy surgery and subsequently passed away.

The parents of the decedent brought this suit against the defendants, alleging that the decedent suffered airflow constriction by being placed in the prone position. They further alleged that the defendants negligently inflicted emotional distress on their son. The plaintiffs hired an anesthesiology expert witness to opine on the decedent’s treatment.

The Anesthesiologist Expert Witness

The plaintiffs’ expert witness was board certified in anesthesiology with 19 years of experience as a practicing anesthesiologist. The expert completed his residency in anesthesiology and fellowships in adult cardiac anesthesiology and critical care medicine. He was associated with several well-known hospitals in Nashville, Tennessee and worked as an assistant professor of anesthesiology and critical care at the Vanderbilt Medical School of Vanderbilt University. He also published numerous medical research papers.

Discussion

The defendants attempted to exclude the testimony of the plaintiffs’ anesthesiology expert witness, alleging that he was not a trained pediatric anesthesiologist nor did he have appropriate recent experience in childcare. The defendants alleged that these factors should be mandatory for any expert attempting to testify in this matter.

The court found that the expert’s knowledge of the differences between anesthesia in adults and children, his academic background, and his experience working with children, although somewhat limited, qualified him as an expert on anesthesiology in this case.

The court noted that this case did not involve a neonate or small child. Although the expert’s opinion was that the deceased’s organs and processes were not those of an adult, the decedent was not at a child-like stage of development. Additionally, the expert’s testimony showed knowledge and experience with these behavioral differences and appreciation for the need to compensate for them in care and treatment.

In view of the anesthesiology expert’s education in the unique challenges of anesthesiology as well as his experience treating patients of similar age and size as the decedent, the court found that the expert was eligible to present his opinions in this case. Furthermore, the court noted that the defendants’ remaining criticism of the expert’s opinions was a subject for cross-examination.

Held

The defendants’ motion to exclude the testimony of the anesthesiology expert witness was denied.

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