Summary disposition in favor of doctor is reversed; Court notes that the trial judge ignored salient testimony of the injured man and abused his discretion
Jeffrey Cullum sued his Ear, Nose and Throat specialist, Dr. Frederick Lopatin, after he developed aseptic necrosis in his hip. Cullum claimed that Lopatin was negligent in prescribing three consecutive Medrol Dosepak [steroid] treatments. Cullum filed an Affidavit of Merit from a different otolaryngologist (ENT) confirming a breach of the standard of care by Lopatin, and from an orthopedic specialist confirming the causation of his steroid-related bone death in the hip.
The defendants deposed Plaintiff's expert witness on causation, who agreed that plaintiff's avascular necrosis was cause by a combination of the steroids and by alcohol consumption by the plaintiff. On the basis of this testimony, the defendants argued that the plaintiff's case should be dismissed as unduly speculative. They also argued that the expert's causation theory was not adequately supported by published medical literature. Although he had previously rejected these arguments, the trial judge revisited the issue immediately before trial and granted the defendant summary disposition, holding that the injured man could not prove "proximate causation."
The Court of Appeals reversed. The judges pointed out that the letter demonstrating causation of necrosis by Medrol dose-paks had been subjected to peer review before and after publication in the medical literature; that it had been cited in 44 other articles; and that it had previously been accepted by another court as scientifically reliable. Under the circumstances, the weight to be given the expert opinion was a question for the jury: it was not unduly speculative and therefore the causation claim was not subject to summary rejection by the Court.