Malpractice claim dismissed because Court of Appeals rejects victim's doctors' causation testimony
Rosemary Smoter sued Nancy Lockhart, M.D., alleging that Lockhart caused her to suffer permanent injury by applying a splint that was too tight for her injured and swollen leg. Smoter developed reflex sympathetic dystrophy--a serious and permanent condition that is not well understood by physicians--and proferred the testimony of two qualified specialists, an E.R. doctor and a neurologist, to support her claim that the RSD resulted from Lockhart's splint aplying too much pressure on Smoter's ankle.
The victim's doctors testified that if Lockhart did not identify and chart an open wound on the ankle prior to splinting, it was their opinion that RSD resulted from the application of a splint that unduly compressed the ankle, compromising the integrity of the skin. Henry Saad, the insurer's captive judge, and two other Court of Appeals judges threw out Smoter's claim, holding that "Plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate that [their testifying specialists] applied any principles or methodology apart from [their] experience and intuition as...doctor[s]." The judges ruled that it was "unduly speculative" for the two specialists to conclude that since the defendant did not observe and chart a wound on the ankle, the splint must have created a hematoma which expanded and compressed a nerve in Smoter's ankle.
This case helps to demonstrate the uphill battle that a malpractice victim faces when filing suit against a health care provider. Some judges will bend over backwards to find excuses to deny the victim an opportunity to present a claim to the jury: you can count on the fact that in a similar situation, specialist testimony supporting a doctor's defense would be allowed into evidence, solely based on the doctor's "experience and intuition"....and logic.