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Physician Qualified to Be Expert Witness about Procedure by Nurse
Description

Nevada high court held that an emergency-room physician was qualified to give expert testimony about the standard of care that should have been provided by a nurse in an emergency room. The fact that the doctor was not a nurse did not mean he was not an authority on the care expected.

Topic Court Procedure
Key Words

New Trial; Misconduct

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Staccato went to a hospital emergency room for back pain. The doctor on duty prescribed an injection into his back. Staccato protested that he was afraid of needles and would pass out if given a shot. He asserted that despite his protests, a nurse told him to stand up to wait for the shot. The nurse left Staccato to go get the medication. He fainted and, in the fall, injured his head. He sued the hospital for malpractice. He hired an emergency room physician as a standard-of-care expert witness. The physician testified that even under ordinary circumstances, giving an intramuscular injection in any position other than supine was indefensible. In his opinion, the hospital did not properly monitor its nurses. The hospital filed a motion to strike the testimony, contending that the physician could not testify about “nursing standard of care.” The district court agreed. Striking the testimony resulted in a directed verdict for the hospital. Staccato appealed.

Decision

Reversed. Although a trial court has discretion in determining whether a witness is qualified as an expert and whether the witness’s testimony is admissible, the court abuses its discretion if it applies an incorrect standard. In a medical-malpractice case, there is no requirement that the plaintiff’s expert witness be from the same specialty as the defendant; the issue is one of the witness’s actual knowledge. Here, the emergency-room physician was not disqualified from testifying as an expert about appropriate standard of care for administering intramuscular injections merely because the person who gave the shot was a nurse. The witness has sufficient skill, knowledge and experience to testify on this matter.

Citation

Staccato v. Valley Hospital, 170 P.3d 503 (Sup. Ct., Nev., 2007)

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