Chiropractic Expert Witness Cannot Opine Regarding Non-Chiropractic Care

Summary: The court found that a Chiropractic Expert Witness may not testify regarding non-chiropractic treatment.

Facts:  In GUADALUPE MORENO, Appellant V. C’TARA INGRAM, Appellee on Appeal from the 192nd Judicial District Court Dallas County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 12-2144, the plaintiff brought suit against the defendant for injuries and damages she sustained as the result of a car crash. The jury ruled in favor of the plaintiff, and judge gave judgment based on the jury’s recommendation.  The defendant argued that the Chiropractor Expert Witness should not have been allowed to testify on the necessity of plaintiff’s non-chiropractic medical injuries and treatment. The trial court ruled that the chiropractor was not qualified to give an expert opinion on the necessity of certain medical care the plaintiff received.

The facts of the case are as follows. The two parties were involved in car crash.  Plaintiff sued for personal injuries and property damage. Before trial the plaintiff also filed documents regarding medical costs and services as result of the accident.  The trial court agreed with the plaintiff regarding the cost, but not necessarily the care that was given.

To establish necessity at trial, the plaintiff offered the testimony of her Chiropractic Expert Witness. This expert testified regarding the need for the chiropractic care as to the necessity of the chiropractic care the plaintiff received, including that given by a Pain Management doctor.

This included epidural steroid injections (ESI), and other non-chiropractic treatment given to the plaintiff. This expert provided demonstrative exhibits, which were used at trial.

Both parties testified about the accident, and their versions of the events were in contrast.

In the end, the trial court awarded $275,372.71, as well as interest and costs. A motion for a new trial was denied, and then an appeal was filed.

The court relied on Whirlpool Corp. v. Camacho, 298 S.W.3d 631, 638 (Tex. 2009): There the Whirlpool court found that rulings on the admissibility of evidence, including whether expert testimony is reliable, are reviewed for abuse of discretion.  But on appeal a party may appeal that unreliable expert testimony is not only inadmissible, but can be grounds to set aside a verdict. Therefore, the court ruled that the entire case had to be reviewed.

The court found it noteworthy that the defendant did not contest the Chiropractic Expert Witness’ ability to testify about the chiropractic treatment.  It was only the non-chiropractic treatment that was objectionable.

During voir dire, the chiropractor stated that for ten years he has been a licensed doctor of chiropractic.  He stated that he was not qualified to give epidural injections.  Those recommendations go to a pain management doctor and that such injections are beyond his expertise.  He testified that the practice of chiropractic medicine does not include surgical procedures, x-rays, pain medications, or other therapy that includes radioactive exposure.

The chiropractor testified that he had reviewed thousands of patients who had similar injuries as the plaintiff.  The doctor had taken continuing education classes in physics of motor vehicle accidents and the effect on a person.  Furthermore, he had taken courses regarding risk management, Medicare, billing and coding practices and how to document it.  He was also familiar with how a person could become injured, and the proper ways to treat those injuries.

Based on his knowledge, experience and training, the chiropractic expert witness opined that the defendant caused the plaintiff’s injures.

Conclusion: the appellate court ruled that because the chiropractor expert witness was not qualified to give testimony regarding non-chiropractic past medical expenses, that portion of the plaintiff’s award should not have been made.  The court reversed some but not all of the monetary award.