Internal Medicine Expert Witness Testimony Allowed in Wrongful Death Prison Litigation.

Summary:  Internal Medicine Expert Witness testimony allowed even though the plaintiff argued that the expert did not act within the standard of care when she did not contact an on-call physician.

Facts:  This case (Griffin v. Coffee County et al – United States District Court – Southern District of Georgia – August 19, 2022) involves a wrongful death action involving a prisoner who died while in custody.  The plaintiff alleges that the defendants violated the decedent’s (Shannon Rewis) standard of care because they left him in an observation cell when they found out that Mr. Lewis had ingested methamphetamine, rather than providing treatment or sending him somewhere else to receive care.  The defendants have hired Internal Medicine Expert Witness Dr. Robert Hall to provide an expert opinion on this case.  The plaintiff filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion:  Dr. Hall testified that if the nurse who was handling Rewis’s case had called a physician, the doctor would have told the nurse to put the patient in an observation unit, which was done in this case.  The plaintiff’s expert opined that defendant Waldron did not act within the standard of care when she did not call the on-call physician.  The defense argued that Mr. Hall’s testimony that stated that because, even if there was a failure to contact an on-call physician, that failure did not cause Mr. Rewis’s death.  Thus, the defense argues that Dr. Hall’s expert witness testimony is relevant and helpful to the jury.  The court agreed with the defendants on this part of the motion.

In addition, the judge proclaimed that Dr. Hall’s testimony is enough to satisfy a deliberate indifference to a serious medical need claim.  The defendant states that this testimony would help the jury in determining whether Waldron’s decision-making in not calling a physician does not fall fall under the category of “more than mere negligence”.  The court opined that Dr. Hall’s testimony will help the trier of fact in figuring out the plaintiff’s indifference claim in this case.

Last, the court determined that Dr. Hall’s testimony which is based on a hypothetical need should be allowed because it is not merely based on a hypothetical.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Dr. Robert Hall is denied.