An Illinois oncologist was found not to be qualified to testify as an expert witness in a Chicago medical malpractice case against a surgeon accused of failing to diagnose and treat a patient’s lymphoma. McWilliams v. Dettore, et al., No. 1-07-0678.
In a split decision, the Illinois Appellate Court for the First District affirmed a Chicago Cook County Circuit Court Judge’s granting of a motion in limine brought by the defendant in a medical malpractice suit. The motion was brought to prevent plaintiff’s named physician expert from testifying that the defendant violated the standard of care when he chose not to perform a biopsy on the plaintiff’s swollen lymph node. The motion focused on the fact that the physician expert was a hematologist/oncologist, whereas the defendant was a surgeon.
However, the difference in specialties had nothing to do with the court’s decision to bar the plaintiff’s expert. Rather the court found it key that the physician expert had no experience with a surgeon’s decision-making process in deciding whether or not to perform a biopsy.
In his opinion, Judge Garcia stated that in order for a medical expert to be able to testify as to what the medical standard of care is for a given physician, he or she must be able to “step into the shoes” of that doctor. Judge Garcia found that while the oncology expert in this case might be critical of the defendant’s decision to not obtain a biopsy, he did not demonstrate in his testimony that he was familiar with the medical standards guiding a surgeon’s medical judgement.
Dr. Gomez was the plaintiff’s sole expert witness in this medical malpractice case. Once his testimony was barred there was no testimony to rebut the defendant’s claims that he had acted within the standard of care. The plaintiff’s attorney asked to voluntarily dismiss the case, but was denied this request because the jury had already been sworn in. The plaintiff then dismissed the case against the defendant doctors with prejudice.
The trial judge’s denial of plaintiff’s request for voluntary dismissal was also reviewed by the appellate court, who affirmed the trial judge’s ruling.