Need to Prove Causation, Too!

By Michael Zerres

Proving Negligence Not Enough…

The Appellate Division’s decision in Stevenson v. Bobila on 6-26-06 underscores the need, in a medical malpractice case, to not only prove that the defendant doctor committed malpractice, i.e., was negligent, but also that the doctor’s negligence caused the patient actual harm. Sometimes this requires a separate expert on the issue of causation. In Stevenson, the plaintiff presented the testimony of an expert to address the fact that the defendant doctor deviated from accepted standards of care in failing to inspect and examine the patient’s foot following a foot infection. However, the expert, board certified in Physical Medicine, could not offer an opinion that the doctor’s negligence made the infection worse, or caused the patient harm, as he lacked expertise in infectious diseases. Therefore, the trial court properly dismissed plaintiff’s complaint during trial for lack of expert infectious disease testimony on the issue of ‘causation,’ an essential element to any medical malpractice case. As I see it, this is one of the three essential elements that are required to prove a case: NEGLIGENCE, PROXIMATE CAUSE & DAMAGES. If any one element is missing, the case will not be successful.

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