Pulmonary Medicine Expert Witness Not Allowed

Plaintiff sued defendant after her husband died almost a year after a heart/lung bypass machine stopped working during surgery.  The plaintiff hired a pulmonary medicine expert witness to provide testimony.  The defendant filed a motion to exclude, which the court granted.

Facts: This case (Smith v. Terumo Cardiovascular Systems et al – United States District Court – District of Utah – August 7th, 2017) involves an action against a hospital and a manufacturer of a heart/lung bypass machine.  The decedent Charles A. Smith, underwent surgery on his heart in September 2010.  During the surgery, the heart/lung bypass machine stopped working for 10-11 minutes.  Around a year later, Mr. Smith passed away from a heart attack.  In order to assist in her case, Mrs. Buzzie Smith, hired licensed perfusionist Alfred Stammers (pulmonary medicine expert witness) to provide expert opinions regarding the perfusion case that Mr. Smith received during the surgery.  The defendants filed a motion to exclude Mr. Stammers’s expert witness testimony.

Discussion:  Mr. Stammers opined that an issue with the Air Bubble Detection system could render the machine as dangerous to operate.  In addition, he concludes that this machine was defective when it was sold to the medial center where Mr. Smith underwent the operation.

Turemo argues that Mr. Stammer’s testimony regarding a defect in the system should be excluded because he is not experienced in the product design, development, or manufacture of the machine and that he has not engaged in any analysis to conclude that the machine malfunctioned.

The court opined that Mr. Stammer’s opinion that the system contained a defect is not within the confines of his expertise.  In fact, Mr. Stammer admitted that he is not an engineer and does not intend to offer any opinions of that sort.  When asked about his understanding of the content of a safety notice issued by Terumo, he replied that he does not have the specialized engineering expertise to offer an opinion on the issues inherent in the notice.  The court continued by opining that if Mr. Stammers cannot understand the safety notice that would assist in leading him to the conclusion that the system contained a defect, his opinion will not assist the trier of fact.

Terumo also argues that the methodology that Mr. Stammers used to come to his conclusion were unreliable.  They state that Mr. Stammers’s reliance on others’ depositions and the failure to conduct any testing should result in his testimony being excluded as it is not reliable.  The court agreed, opining that without adequate testing, his conclusions are only theory.  The analytical gap between the data and his opinion can only lead the court to exclude his testimony.

Conclusion:  The motion to exclude the expert opinion of Alfred Stammers is granted