Emergency Medicine Expert Witness Testimony Allowed in Prison Negligence Case

Overview: Emergency Medicine Expert Witness testimony allowed as the judge ruled that the expert is qualified to testify even though he has not worked in a correctional setting.

Facts: This case (Nelson v. Chelan County et al – United States District Court – Eastern District of Washington – April 19th, 2024) involves the death of an inmate at Chelan County Regional Justice Center.  The plaintiff alleges that the defendants should be held liable for the death of Blair Austin Nelson who passed away while being held at the jail.  The plaintiff hired Emergency Medicine Expert Witness Dr. Richard Cummins to provide expert witness testimony.  The defendant filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion: The defendants argue that Dr. Cummins’ expert witness testimony should be excluded because his experience is with emergency departments in hospitals, not correctional facilities.  In addition, the defendants state that Dr. Cummins should not be allowed to opine on causation regarding the jail staff as it relates to the death of Ms. Nelson.

The judge in this case says that Dr. Cummins is qualified to provide an expert opinion on medical care due to his knowledge, skill, experience, and education.  In addition, the court rules that he has extensive knowledge of treating different types of patients, including alcohol withdrawal.

Also, the judge rules that Dr. Cummins will be allowed to testify as to causation, based on his medical background and his review of the case and medical record.

Last, the court also ruled that Dr. Cummins may bring up a past incident involving Nurse Aldrich, and is not improper character reference, as asserted by the defendants.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness opinion of Dr. Richard Cummins is denied.