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Court examines questions related to podiatrist's standard of care

Alice Collins achieved a modest ($117,000) verdict against Harvey M. Lefkowitz, DPM, Anthony Giordano, DPM, and Michigan Foot and Ankle.  She proved to the jury's satisfaction that Giordano breached the standard of care when he cut through her second metatarsal while operating to improve a bunion on the first metatarsal, and then failed to inform her of his error for several months (she learned from a third party).  The podiatrists appealed, arguing that the Court erred in admitting Collins' expert testimony.

As is the case in most malpractice claims, Collins' attorneys were forced to retain a Florida podiatrist because most physicians won't testify against a local doctor or someone with whom they or their partners have trained and attend conferences.  The Defendants argued that podiatrists are not "specialists" and therefore the plaintiff's experts must be familiar with the practice of medicine in the defendants' locality.  They argued that the plaintiff's experts did not document the requisite degree of familiarity. 

On appeal, the three Court of Appeals judges rejected this argument and upheld the jury's verdict, although they disagreed on precisely why.  They were unwilling to disagree with a prior Appeals court decision that podiatrists are not specialists, as requested by Collins' attorneys (specialists are held to a national standard, not a local standard of care).  Two of the judges felt that the Florida doctor's familiarity was probably adequate, but that the testimony was not even necessary because a jury could make its own judgment about the standard of care "if the lack of professional care is so manifest that it would be within the knowledge and experience of the ordinary layman.."  The third judge agreed with the outcome, but based his decision on the fact that the defendant's experts' testimony clearly established the standard of care, which the jury obviously deemed violated.

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