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Court excludes plaintiff's expert testimony on standard of care; dismissed lawsuit

Edward Goldberg sued Dr. John Wlezniak and St. Mary's Hospital of Livonia, arguing that Wlezniak breached the standard of care by failing to administer t-PA (tissue plsminogen activator) to Goldberg after the latter suffered a mild stroke.  Goldberg offered an ER physician expert who testified that Wlezniak violated the standard of care in not giving the medicine and two expert physicians who testified that Goldberg would have enjoyed a better neurological outcome if he had been given the medication within three hours.  The Defendants argued that Goldberg's standard of care testimony was inadequately supported by medical literature, and sought dismissal of his claim.  The trial court concluded that there was adequate foundation for the expert's testimony and refused to strike it.

The Defendants' insurer appealed and the higher court reversed the trial judge's decision. The higher court focused on several items of evidence argued by the medical insurer:  the fact that only a minority of stroke patients are given t-PA; the fact that the ER doctors' trade groups have adopted a policy that administering t-PA is not appropriate standard of care in all cases; and the Plaintiff's expert's failure to provide testimony linking his opinion to medical literature supporting the administration of t-PA to this particular type of patient who suffered a mild stroke.

Taking into account the above evidence, the Court of Appeals overturned the trial judge's decision and dismissed Goldberg's malpractice claim.  Even though the expert had testified that in his opinion administration of t-PA to this particular patient, with his presenting symptoms, was appropriate under the "standard of care," the Court deemed this opinion not sufficiently "reliable" to support a lawsuit.

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