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Judges disagree if testimony is hypothetical

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Indiana Court of Appeals judges disagreed over whether two doctors' expert witness testimony in a medical malpractice case used hypothetical language that couldn't raise a genuine issue of fact.

The majority in Myers Blaker vs. Ronald Young II M.D. and Indianapolis Neurosurgical Group, No. 49A02-0811-CV-1038, determined the opinions of plaintiff Myers Blaker's expert witnesses - Drs. Mitesh Shah and Joel Boaz - were based on speculation and conjecture, not facts established by designated evidence in the case.

Both doctors used the words "if" and "assume" in their testimony, leading Chief Judge John Baker and Judge Ezra Friedlander to find their testimony insufficient to raise a genuine issue of material fact.

The doctors testified on behalf of Blaker in his suit against Dr. Ronald Young, following a surgery to treat Blaker's subocciptal headaches and neck pain. In his operative report, Young noted the left tonsillar branch of the posterior inferior cerebellar artery, or PICA, but never mentioned the right one. Immediately after surgery, Blaker appeared to be fine, but later went into respiratory arrest, had to be intubated, and couldn't move his extremities. An MRI three years later showed he suffered a stroke in the area of the brain supplied by the PICA.

A medical review board found Young complied with the appropriate standard of care. The trial court granted the doctor summary judgment in Blaker's malpractice action. The trial court also denied Blaker's request to supplement his designated evidence.

The majority ruled the affidavits of Shah and Boaz confirm the finding of the panel that there isn't any evidence Young didn't meet the standard of applicable care.

"Both doctors agreed that, hypothetically, if Dr. Young did not identify the right PICA, then he deviated from the standard of care," wrote Judge Friedlander. "Moreover, there is no evidence in the record to provide a factual basis for the hypothetical situation on which their opinions are based."

Judge Patricia Riley dissented, noting both doctors' affidavits satisfy the requirements under Jordan v. Deery, 609 N.E.2d 1104, 1110 (Ind. 1993), which ruled an expert opinion in the context of summary judgment proceedings should recite the expert's credentials and the records reviewed and relied upon by the expert.

Judge Riley also noted Indiana Rule of Evidence 702(a) doesn't establish any threshold of certainty for expert opinion, and that the appellate court found a statement using "if" in Bunch v. Tiwari, 711 N.E.2d 844, 850 (Ind. Ct. App. 1999), to be admissible and sufficient to refute the medical review panel's opinion.

"Likewise here, the statement contained in Dr. Shah's and Dr. Boaz's affidavits do not rise to the level of a hypothetical situation and should have been admitted. Specifically, both experts testified it would be substandard care if Dr. Young failed to identify the right PICA," she wrote.

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  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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