In a recent case in front of a state appellate court, a woman filed a medical malpractice lawsuit after she was treated for a condition known as thoracic outlet syndrome. The illness caused her extreme pain around her shoulder and in her arm and also caused her numbness, swelling, and weakness. As a result, she was treated by a doctor who performed a surgery to try to ease the pain by removing one of her ribs. However, the woman suffered severe symptoms after the surgery, including pain whenever she moved her arm and difficulty swallowing food. The woman then sued the doctor for malpractice.
The defendant presented an expert who said that the doctor performed the surgery correctly and provided proper post-operative care. The expert also said that the woman’s symptoms after the surgery were a result of her original illness. To rebut this, the woman presented her own expert, who was a doctor in Mexico. The doctor had examined her about one year before she sought treatment from the defendant. Her expert stated that the defendant had destabilized the woman’s right sternoclavicular joint during the surgery or had disrupted the ligaments that hold it in place.
The defendant objected to the plaintiff’s expert witness, arguing that he was not familiar with the “standard of care” in the United States. The trial court agreed and dismissed the case. However, a court of appeals found that her expert witness, who was licensed to practice medicine in Mexico, was qualified to give an opinion in this case. Importantly, the defendant doctor did not suggest that the standard of care in Mexico was different from the standard of care in the United States. In addition, the Mexican doctor had performed over 500 orthopedic surgeries and around 10 to 12 thoracic outlet syndrome surgeries. He also personally examined the woman before and after her surgery. Thus, the court found that he was qualified to give his opinion, and the jurors were free to give it as much weight as they determined was appropriate.