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Monday, February 20, 2012

Medical Malpracitce: New Case on the Locality Rule Post-Shipley, Etc.

The Tennessee Court of Appeal (Western Section) recently released its opinion in McDonald v. Shea, No. W2010-02317-COA-R3-CV (Feb. 16, 2012). The opinion, among other things, addresses the qualification of an expert witness in a medical malpractice case under the locality rule post Shipley v. Williams, 350 S.W.3d 527 (Tenn. 2011). The summary from the opinion is as follows:

This is a medical malpractice appeal. The plaintiff patient was treated by the defendant physician for ear problems. After the treatment, she had a complete loss of hearing in one ear. The plaintiff patient filed this lawsuit against the physician, alleging medical malpractice and lack of informed consent. After potential experts in Tennessee and contiguous states declined to testify against the defendant physician, the trial court permitted the plaintiff to use an expert physician witness from a non-contiguous state. At the jury trial, after the jury was sworn and counsel gave opening statements, a juror notified the trial judge of the her concern about an upcoming social event she planned to attend, at which a relative of the defendant physician would be present. After voir dire, the trial judge noted that the plaintiff patient had unused remaining peremptory challenges and excused the juror. The trial court denied the defendant physician’s motion for directed verdict on informed consent. the jury awarded the plaintiff substantial compensatory damages. The defendant physician now appeals, arguing that the trial court erred in permitting the plaintiff to obtain an expert from a non-contiguous state, in allowing the plaintiff to exercise a peremptory challenge after trial was underway, in permitting the informed consent claim to go to the jury, and in denying the defendants’ motion to exclude the expert retained by the plaintiff. We affirm on all issues except the dismissal of the juror. We hold it would be error to permit the exercise of a peremptory challenge after the trial is underway, but find that any error was harmless under the facts of this case. Therefore, we affirm.

Here's a link to the majority opinion:

Here's a link to Judge Highers's separate concurring and dissenting opinion:

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