Jarrell v. Kaul

By Michael Zerres

In this medical malpractice action, the Appellate Court confirmed a jury finding that defendant physician, Dr. Kaul, M.D., deviated from the standard of care when he performed spine surgery upon the plaintiff. Furthermore, the Appellate court also determined that the plaintiff’s treating physician could provide ‘causation’ testimony without having to be qualified in the same manner as a designated expert witness.

The Appellate Court, at 2013 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 469 (Decided March 1, 2013), rejected the defendant’s appeal, in which the defense claimed that the plaintiff’s treating neurosurgeon, Dr. Steinberger, was improperly permitted to testify that the plaintiff required surgery because “something” happened during the prior fusion surgery performed by defendant, Dr. Kaul.

The Appellate court agreed with the trial court that the plaintiff’s treating physician, Dr. Steinberger, was called as a fact witness and not as an expert witness. Therefore, because Dr. Steinberger was being called as a fact witness, he did not need to be qualified as an expert or provide an expert report.

Specifically, Rules 4:10-2(d)(1) and/or 4:17-4(e), which require that the plaintiff provide an expert report with a complete statement of the expert’s opinions, along with the bases of those opinions, did not apply. The Appellate Division affirmed that, as plaintiff’s treating physician, Dr. Steinberger may testify as to his diagnosis and treatment, including his opinion as to the cause of the patient’s medical condition.

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