Appeals Court Upholds Ruling for Defendant in Medical Malpractice Case

A patient sued a hospital and a clinical care nurse for medical malpractice after the nurse inserted a catheter to drain his urine during and after his surgery, allegedly causing injuries. At trial, the plaintiff sought to offer the testimony of a registered nurse regarding the proper standard of care. The trial court concluded that the nurse was not a similar health care provider as required by the statute pertaining to the qualifications of expert witnesses in medical malpractice actions, and it granted the hospital’s motion to preclude the nurse’s testimony. The trial court thereafter granted the hospital’s motion for a directed verdict because the patient had failed to establish the requisite standard of care for treatment.

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On appeal, the patient claimed that the trial court erred in precluding the nurse’s testimony and directing the verdict for the hospital. The Connecticut Court of Appeals disagreed and affirmed the lower court’s decision.

The appeals court first held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the nurse’s testimony did not support a determination that she was a similar health care provider to the clinical care nurse pursuant to the applicable statute in order to satisfy the criteria for expert testimony regarding the standard of care in a medical malpractice action.

In order to testify as an expert under the statute, the appeals court explained, the nurse had to be trained and experienced in the same discipline or school of practice as the hospital’s clinical care nurse, and her training and experience had to be the result of active involvement in the practice or teaching of medicine within the five-year period prior to the incident giving rise to the plaintiff’s claim. The appeals court held that neither the nurse’s employment as a nurse consultant for a state agency nor her part-time employment as a private duty nurse and litigation consultant satisfied the qualifications to be a similar health care provider. In fact, she testified that she had not provided clinical patient care in almost 20 years and had not inserted a catheter for at least 24 years when she was last employed by a hospital. Furthermore, although she was a registered nurse, she was not qualified to testify under the residual provision of the statute. She did not possess sufficient training, experience, and knowledge as a result of practice or teaching in a related field in order to testify as to the prevailing professional standard of care in the relevant field because she had not been actively involved in the practice of nursing for more than five years prior to the incident at issue.

The patient also claimed that the court erred in granting the defendant’s motion for a directed verdict because its decision was based on the erroneous preclusion of the nurse’s testimony. The appeals court disagreed, concluding that the court properly precluded the plaintiff’s sole standard of care expert witness, the nurse, from testifying. Accordingly, the granting of the defendant’s motion for a directed verdict was proper.

The lower court’s judgment was affirmed.

If you have been hurt by a health care provider, you may need the assistance of a medical malpractice lawyer to seek compensation. At the Neumann Law Group, our Massachusetts attorneys provide trustworthy legal representation to victims all over the state. Contact us toll-free at 800-525-NEUMANN or use our online form to set up a free consultation.

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