Legal Newsline

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Arizona's high court clarifies expert witness qualifications in malpractice case

By John Severance | Oct 31, 2017

Arizona supreme
Arizona Supreme Court | AZGOVERNOR.GOV

PHOENIX (Legal Newsline) -- The Arizona Supreme Court has clarified questions about the qualifications of expert witnesses in deciding a medical malpractice case involving a patient who sustained bedsores after undergoing a surgery in 2011.

The plaintiffs in the case are Karyn Rasor and Donald Miller, and the defendant is Northwest Hospital LLC and Northwest Medical Center. The opinion was released Oct. 17.

The case revolves around the qualifications of an expert witness for Rasor.

‘’This case involves challenges to qualifications for expert witnesses in a medical malpractice action,’’ the opinion said. 

‘’We hold that a defendant may move for summary judgment based on a proposed expert’s lack of requisite qualifications under 12-2604 without first challenging the sufficiency of the expert. We also hold that an expert is unqualified to testify on standard of care if she did not engage in active clinical practice or teaching during the year immediately preceding the injury.’’

The court ruled that the medical center did not have to challenge the expert witness’ preliminary statement if it intended to question her qualifications. Then the Supreme Court sided with an appellate court, saying the witness did not have the qualifications to be an expert witness for Rasor.

‘’Although the trial court did not specify its grounds for granting summary judgment, the court of appeals ruled as a matter of law that (registered nurse Julie) Ho was unqualified to provide expert standard-of-care testimony," the opinion said. "We agree.’’

In its conclusion, the Supreme Court said the disposition of the case was up to the appeals court.

‘’If the court of appeals determines that expert testimony on causation is required and Ho is not qualified to provide it, it should affirm the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to NWMC," the opinion said. "If it decides otherwise, it should remand to the trial court to provide Rasor an opportunity to file a Rule 56(d) motion and for any other appropriate proceedings." 

 Rasor’s attorney was Kevin E. Miniat and the medical center was represented by Kari B. Zangerle, Mary G. Isban and Robert C. Stultz.

Want to get notified whenever we write about Arizona Supreme Court ?

Sign-up Next time we write about Arizona Supreme Court, we'll email you a link to the story. You may edit your settings or unsubscribe at any time.

Organizations in this Story

Arizona Supreme Court