Halper v. St. Barnabas Hospital, ESX-L-5387-10

By Michael Zerres

This medical malpractice action arose out of alleged negligent treatment of plaintiff’s decedent while admitted to St. Barnabas Hospital. Both defendant physician and plaintiff’s proffered expert were board certified in Internal Medicine and the subspecialty of Cardiovascular Disease. However, plaintiff’s expert was not board certified in defendant Dr. Nicholas Tullo’s second subspecialty, “Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology.” Dr. Tullo moved for Summary Judgment, seeking dismissal of the Complaint, due to plaintiff’s failure to provide expert testimony rendered by an appropriately-qualified physician. The issue presented in defendant’s Summary Judgment motion was whether, in a medical malpractice action, an additional subspecialty certification held by a defendant doctor bars the use and testimony of a plaintiff’s expert who otherwise shares the defendant doctor’s professional credentials, but lacks certification in the additional subspecialty.

The Court denied defendants’ motion, holding that, as long as the respective physicians are equivalently credentialed in the medical specialty or specialties in which the alleged maltreatment occurred, in this case Cardiology, the plaintiff’s expert should be permitted to testify. The fact that the defendant doctor may have an additional subspecialty not shared by the plaintiff’s expert is immaterial to the expert’s ability to opine on the appropriate standard of care owed in an area in which both doctors are equivalently qualified. Here, the medical treatment provided to plaintiff’s decedent by defendant physician did not concern defendant physician’s additional subspecialty of “Clinical Care Electrophysiology,” and as such, it is immaterial that plaintiff’s expert did not share this additional subspecialty with defendant physician.

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