Obstetrician Not Expert on Birth Defect Causation and Life Care in Malpractice Action on Failure to Diagnose Preterm Premature Rupture of Membranes

A pregnant woman presented to an emergency room. A doctor from her obstetrician’s practice evaluated her for preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM) and determined she was not suffering from PPROM. A subsequent laboratory test was conducted for PPROM. The woman was discharged from the emergency room prior to receiving the results of the test. The test results were positive. Two days later the woman went to her obstetrician, who determined she was suffering from PPROM and the baby was in a breech position. The woman underwent a cesarean section. Her daughter suffered from physical and mental disabilities.


The woman sued her obstetrician, his practice, and the hospital for medical malpractice. She disclosed her two expert witnesses, an obstetrician to testify to causation and life care plans and a pediatric neurologist for rebuttal. The defendants filed a motion to exclude the plaintiff’s expert on causation and life care plans arguing that the subjects were outside his qualifications. The district court granted the motion and granted the defendants’ subsequent motion for summary judgment for failure to produce an expert testimony as to causation. The plaintiff appealed.


The Supreme Court of Nevada affirmed the district court’s decision. The district court did not abuse its discretion when it excluded the plaintiff’s expert. The district court applied the correct standard. The obstetrician might have been qualified with regard to the diagnosis and treatment of the mother, but he had no experience regarding the diagnosis and care of the daughter. The obstetrician admitted that he would have referred an infant like the one in this case to a pediatric neurologist for diagnosis and treatment. He also admitted that he had no direct experience with life care plans. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion when it granted the defendants motion to exclude because the obstetrician lacked sufficient qualifications within the specific area of knowledge about which he was to testify.


Expert medical testimony is generally required to show causation in a medical malpractice claim. At the summary judgment hearing, the plaintiff failed to dispute the fact that she had no expert witness to testify as to causation after the district court's ruling excluding the obstetrician’s testimony on causation. The plaintiff failed to dispute that she had only disclosed the pediatric neurologist as a rebuttal expert. Without a medical expert to testify on causation, the plaintiff could not prove the causation element of the medical malpractice suit. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion when it granted the defendants motion for summary judgment.


See: Martinez v. Glassman, 2012 WL 5378172 (Nev., October 31, 2012) (not designated for publication).