District Court Opinion Denying Healthcare Expert is Affirmed

Plaintiff appealed an opinion of the district court excluding the testimony of his standard of care expert.  The appeals court affirmed the opinion.

Facts:  This case (Dalip Basanti v. United States of America – United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit – November 23rd, 2016) is an appeal from district court orders excluding testimony from an proposed expert witness and a final judgment in favor of the government.  The case is one of medical negligence brought by the plaintiff (Basanti) against the government for failing to diagnose an endodermal cyst.  In order to prove their case, Basanti hired three expert witnesses:  1) Dr. Glenn Flores (Pediatrics Expert Witness) 2) Dr. Laurence
Huffman (Family Practice/Family Medicine Expert Witness) and Dr. David Glaser (Family Practice/Family Medicine Expert Witness).  Dr. Flores was hired to provide expert testimony on the fact that the defendants acted below the standard of care when it did not utilize interpretive services to communicate with Basanti during her medical appointments.  Drs. Glaser and Huffman were hired to provide similar testimony.

The defendants filed a motion to exclude Dr. Flores’ testimony in full and Drs. Huffman and Glaser in part.  The district court granted the motion as to Dr. Flores’ in full, stating that he was not qualified to opine on whether the failure to use a medical interpreter caused the injuries sustained by Basanti.  The court then determined that Dr. Flores’ opinion in the standard of care was not relevant.  The district court denied the motion to exclude the opinions of Drs. Huffman and Glaser.

Basanti appealed the decision to this court, arguing that it abused its discretion by excluding Dr. Flores’ opinion on standard of care and causation as well as his testimony on the adverse effects of language barriers on healthcare.

Discussion:  Basanti argues that the district court did not focus properly on Dr. Flores’ knowledge and experience as an expert of language issues in healthcare.  Basanti states that Dr. Floress testimony on language is applicable to all medical settings.

The appeals court disagrees, stating that the district court excluded Dr. Flores’ testimony after he testified that 1) He had never diagnosed a patient with Basanti’s condition, 2) He would not be competent to work with an adult with Basanti’s condition, and other issues related to Basanti’s condition.  Thus, the appeals court ruled that it cannot say that the district court abused its discretion when it opined that Dr. Flores was not qualified to testify on the defendants’ failure to use language services caused Basanti’s injuries.

In addition, Basanti challenges the exclusion of Dr. Flores’ standard of care testimony.  The appeals court affirmed the lower court ruling, stating that because they determined that the district court did not abuse its discretion regarding the causation testimony, they must conclude that the standard of care testimony was also properly excluded.

Last, Basanti argues that the district court abused its discretion when it excluded Dr. Flores’ “generalized testimony” on the effects of language barriers on health and healthcare.  The appeals court disagreed, stating that there is no indication that the district court’s order excluded this testimony.  But, the court does state that such testimony would have been excluded.

Conclusion:  The district court order excluding the expert witness testimony of Dr. Flores is affirmed.