Orthopedic Surgery Expert Witness Testimony Allowed in Prisoner Adequate Care Litigation

Summary: Orthopedic Surgery Expert Witness testimony was allowed even though the plaintiff argued that the doctor did not provide an explanation that splinting was the best course of treatment for the plaintiff’s injuries.

Facts:  This case (Witkin v. Lotersztain – United States District Court – Eastern District of California – June 23, 2022) involves a claim by a prisoner against a medical doctor.  The plaintiff, Michael Aaron Witkin, says that he was injured during a game of flag football and the doctor, J. Lin, did not provide adequate care which violated Witkin’s Eighth Amendment rights.  Witkin states that he fractured a finger on his hand.  The defendant has hired Orthopedic Surgery Expert Witness Alexandra Burgar to provide testimony in this case.  The plaintiff has filed a motion to exclude this expert from testifying.

Discussion: Witkin argues that Burgar did not provide the standard of care and did not give any methodology to support her conclusion that splinting was the correct treatment for the plaintiff’s injuries.  In addition, the plaintiff states that Dr. Burgar did not explain the severity of the fracture and what the impact would be on future treatment options. Witkin also argues that Dr. Burgar’s expert witness testimony is not good science.

The defendant counters that Dr. Burgar has extensive experience and knowledge about the treatment of bones, muscles, and tendons in the hand and that her opinions are based on her reading of the plaintiff’s medical records and the plaintiff’s deposition, as well as J. Lin’s depositions.

The court states that Dr. Burgar is an orthopedic specialist.  The court also states that Dr. Burgar has 17 years of experience in this area of study and that is more than adequate to qualify her as an expert witness in this case.  The court also opines that Dr. Burgar’s medical training and experience gives her the knowledge to provide an opinion of whether or no Dr. Lin’s treatment of Witkin was within the standard of care of such injuries.   In addition, the court states that Dr. Burgar relied on sufficient facts to create her opinion and that Dr. Burgar did not have to evaluate the plaintiff’s initial treatment and was only required to provide an opinion on Dr. Lin’s medical treatment of Witkin.

Also, the court states that Dr. Burgar’s expert witness opinion is reliable based on her training and experience in orthopedic surgery and hand surgery.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert witness testimony of Alexandra Burgar is denied.