Court Finds Expert General Surgeon Unqualified To Opine On Gastroenterology Standards Of Care


Gastroenterology Expert

Court: Court of Appeals of Mississippi
Jurisdiction: Federal
Case Name: Fipps v. Greenwood Leflore Hosp
Citation: 237 So. 3d 194

This case involves a patient who suffered a neck abscess following a surgical procedure on his esophagus. The plaintiff called a general surgeon as an expert witness to opine on the gastrointestinal complications the patient suffered. However, the court excluded the expert based on his lack of board certification and experience in gastroenterology standards of care.

Facts

The plaintiff underwent an esophagogastroduodenoscopy procedure to treat his difficulty swallowing (dysphagia). During the procedure, the surgeon dilated the patient’s esophagus. The plaintiff claimed that this procedure caused a rupture in his esophagus which led the patient to develop medical complications, including a neck abscess. The patient required two corrective surgeries as a result of these complications.

The plaintiff designated a general surgeon as an expert witness regarding upper and lower gastrointestinal issues. The defendant filed a motion before the trial court to exclude the testimony of the plaintiff’s expert. The trial court ruled in favor of the defendant and excluded the testimony of the plaintiff’s general surgery expert. The plaintiff appealed the motion. The issue before the court was whether the trial court erred in excluding the testimony of the plaintiff’s medical expert.

The Expert Testimony

The plaintiff’s expert stated that the plaintiff’s treating surgeon deviated from the standard of care expected of a physician in the expert’s profession and specialty. The expert also opined that the procedure performed by the doctor was definitively the event which led the plaintiff to develop a fistula and a subsequent neck abscess.

Court’s Discussion

The plaintiff while arguing that the trial court erred in excluding the expert’s testimony, argued that the expert was qualified as a gastroenterologist expert. The trial court also noted that the expert was never presented as an expert in gastroenterology and had testified as a general surgeon only. However, the trial court found no evidence in the expert’s deposition to demonstrate that the expert had knowledge of the standard of care for gastroenterology procedures. The trial court recognized that the expert did have some familiarity with EGD procedures, but he did not testify that he had knowledge of the gastroenterology standards of care.

Held

The court held that the trial court had not abused its discretion in excluding the expert’s opinion. The expert had knowledge of some gastroenterology procedures, but this experience did not indicate sufficient knowledge of the standard of care to which a gastroenterologist is held. The expert opined as a general surgeon and not as a gastroenterologist expert.

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