General Surgery Expert Witness Testimony Not Allowed

Plaintiff filed a lawsuit involving a wrongful death claim.  Plaintiff hired a General Surgery Expert Witness to provide testimony.  Defendant filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.  The court granted the motion.

Facts:  This case (Martinez et al v. United States of America – United States District Court – District of Puerto Rico – July 10th, 2019) involves a wrongful death claim filed by the plaintiffs on behalf of their decedent.  The plaintiffs claim that the decedent’s wrongful death was caused by the negligence and medical malpractice of the defendant, The United States of America.  The plaintiff hired General Surgery Expert Witness Dr. José R. Ortiz-Feliciano to provide testimony.  The defendant filed a motion to exclude this expert witness testimony.

Discussion:  The defendant alleges that because the decedent was evaluated and admitted by the VA Hospital’s Internal Medicine Service, Dr. Ortiz-Feliciano is not qualified to testify as an expert in this case because his training is in general medicine and surgery and not internal medicine.  In addition, the defendant alleges that Dr. Ortiz-Feliciano’s expert witness testimony will not assist the trier of fact in this case.

The plaintiff argues that Dr. Ortiz-Feliciano does not need to be a specialist to be qualified as an expert witness in this case and that the defendant’s critiques go to the weight of the evidence, not the admissibility.

The court opines that Dr. Ortiz-Feliciano is qualified to testify as an expert in this case as courts have established that physicians need not be specialists in order to qualify as experts.

The court notes that Dr. Ortiz-Feliciano’s expert report is only two pages long and mainly consists of a summary of the decedent’s clinical history, hospital record, and autopsy report.  In addition, the report includes a table which shows the decedent’s decreasing platelet count on certain dates.  He then states that “The decline in platelet levels was not monitored or corrected during the last 3 days prior to death. This is a departure from accepted medical practice.”

The court opines that the report does not offer any principles, methods, medical literature, or other sources to analyze.  The report only summarizes the decedent’s medical records and then proceeds to offer conclusory statements.  The court continues by opining that the report lacks key facts that are fundamental for its conclusion.  Thus, the court notes, Dr. Ortiz-Feliciano’s expert witness testimony is unreliable due to its lack of data, facts, and methodology.

In addition, the court notes that the testimony “does not provide any helpful information that could not be obtained from
revising [the decedent’s] hospital record and autopsy report.”

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Dr. José R. Ortiz-Feliciano is granted.