Court refuses to exclude testimony of malpractice victim's expert physicians
Sandra Peetz died during her hospitalization for the perfomance of a carotid endarterectomy (CEA). She experienced unexplained high blood pressure, a blood thinner was administered and ultimately a brain bleed was diagnosed radiologically. The Plaintiff family presented evidence from a neurosurgeon and a vascular surgeon who agreed that Sandra's subdural hematoma developed because the defendants did not take adequate precautions.
The specialists testified that the surgeons should have used a shunt while Peetz was unconscious, immediately obtained a CT scan when she developed neurological symptoms, and taken steps to control her blood pressure after unclamping her carotid artery. They testified that the failure to take these measures after clamping the subject artery decreased blood flow to the brain, caused contraction of the brain, and a bleed in bridging veins in the subdural space. Failing to control blood pressure and use of anticoagulants accelerated the development of the hematoma.The Defendants argued that this explanation for Sandra's complications was not adequately supported by scientific research and that the plaintiff's experts should therefore be precluded from offering into evidence their opinion about causation. The Court of Appeals unanimously rejected this argument. It noted that the experts were highly experienced surgeons with "vast experience" in this field; their opinions were corroborated by medical literature that is consistent with their explanation of this rare misadventure.