The defense introduced their own expert physician, who testified that the films only indicated lung lesions on retrospective review. The expert told the jury that the scans from the first two years were consistent with pulmonary hypertension and did not require a referral to a radiologist or follow-up imaging. In addition, the defense expert placed great emphasis on the plaintiff’s many co-morbidities.

After two hours of deliberation, the jury returned with a verdict for the plaintiff, and awarded Mrs. W’s family $2 million in damages.

Legal Background

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Almost all medical malpractice cases require the testimony of a medical expert. Some states require an expert’s opinion before a case can even be instituted. The courts generally believe that medical malpractice cases are too complex for a jury to understand without the assistance of medical experts to explain the intricacies of disease and treatment. Medical experts are necessary to explain to the judge and jury what the defendant clinician should have done, or not done, under the particular set of circumstances, and whether the clinician’s conduct constituted negligence by violating the standards of care of the profession. For this reason, medical experts are almost always necessary in a medical malpractice case.

Protecting Yourself

Dr. D knew that he was less than comfortable reading imaging studies, yet he didn’t ask for a second opinion on the scans. Making that extra call to have the imaging looked at by a radiologist could have improved the outcomes for both the physician and his patient.