Expert Testimony Required To Establish Negligence in Removing Pain Pump Catheter

An action seeking damages for negligent removal of a pain pump catheter required expert medical testimony to establish liability and could not rely on a theory of Res Ipsa Loquitur. The plaintiff was required to undergo a second surgical procedure to remove a piece of a pain pump catheter left in her shoulder after it was removed.


The plaintiff argued that the negligence of the physician assistant who removed the catheter was self-evident, obviating the need for expert testimony. However, the defendant produced evidence that catheters sometimes break in the absence of negligence, and argued that expert testimony was required to show how or why it broke in the instant case.


In granting summary judgment to the defendant, the court held, and the appellate court agreed, that the standard of care in removing a catheter is beyond the ken of the average layperson, and therefore expert testimony was required. In the absence of this testimony, the plaintiff could not establish either of the first two prongs for application the doctrine of Res Ipsa Loquitur: 1) that the damage was the type which ordinarily does not occur in the absence of negligence; or 2) that other potential causes could be sufficiently eliminated. The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur was not applicable and the need for expert testimony was not obviated.


See: Vazquez v. CHS Professional Practice, P.C., 2012 WL 549715, (Pa.Super. Feb 21, 2012) (not designated for publication).