Affidavit of Merit from a Certified Expert: Sitsofe Awuku v. Shelley Jones-Dillon, M.D.

By Michael Zerres

Sitsofe Awuku v. Shelley Jones-Dillon, M.D. Docket No.A-1366-13T1, decided July 31, 2014

Plaintiff brought this medical malpractice action after suffering complications from treatment of an acute stroke after presenting the ER at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. Plaintiff’s claim against one of the named defendants, who was board certified in internal medicine, was dismissed because plaintiff failed to serve an Affidavit of Merit from a similarly certified expert.

On appeal, plaintiff’s claim was reinstated after the Appellate Division found that plaintiff’s Affidavit of Merit, from an ER physician, was appropriate because the defendant in question (Dr. Jones-Dillon) was not acting as an internist at the time care was rendered, but rather as an emergency medicine specialist.

At trial, plaintiff then moved to bar the testimony of three defense experts, arguing they were not board certified in emergency medicine. Plaintiff’s motion was denied and plaintiff appealed. Citing language from the previous Appellate Order finding that defendant in question was rendering care as an emergency medicine physician, the Appellate Division stated that 2 of the 3 experts were appropriately qualified under the statute, and, the Trial Court did not err in denying plaintiff’s motion for those equivalently-qualified experts.

The remaining defense expert, who was not equivalently-qualified in emergency medicine, but rather was board certified in neurology, was found not qualified to offer testimony as to the standard of care on behalf of the defendant in question. As such, the case was reversed in part and remanded for further proceedings.

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