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Nurses may be expert witnesses in some standard of care disputes

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The Indiana Court of Appeals declined Wednesday to create a blanket rule that nurses cannot qualify as expert witnesses under the Indiana Evidence Rule and testify as to whether a health care provider breached a standard of care or whether an alleged breach caused an injury.

The decision came in a wrongful death, breach of contract and negligent infliction of emotional distress claim filed by Michael Curts. Curts’ elderly mother lived in Miller’s Merry Manor nursing home to receive care following a stroke. She had a history of falling and of getting out of bed while waiting for nurses to help her to use the bathroom. On May 7, 2006, staff found her lying face down on the floor in a large amount of blood. Curts happened to arrive at the room during this incident and saw his mother on the floor. She died the next day in the hospital.

He sought to have Theresa Weitkamp, a nurse and nursing home administrator, testify as an expert witness. She concluded that Miller’s Merry Manor deviated from commonly accepted standards of care and regulations.  

A medical review panel of three doctors determined the evidence didn’t support that the nursing home failed to meet the appropriate standard of care and its conduct wasn’t a factor of the resultant damages. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the nursing home.

The appellate court reviewed caselaw in which nurses have been found unable to testify as expert witnesses regarding medical causation and medical standards. In those cases, the medical causation issues were complex, but in the instant case, the question is whether Miller’s Merry Manor failed to meet its standard of care and whether the injuries from the fall caused the woman’s death.

“In a scenario such as this, we cannot foreclose the possibility that some nurses have sufficient expertise to qualify as an expert witness,” Chief Judge Margret Robb wrote.

But Curts didn’t present sufficient evidence of Weitkamp’s expertise for the court to conclude that she qualifies as an expert witness. In addition, the judges found Curts failed to meet his burden of establishing a genuine issue of material fact.

 

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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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