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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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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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