Washington Case Law Update: ARNP Can Opine on Proximate Cause in Medical Malpractice Case
From the desk of Thomas McCurdy: Washington law has long been clear that an advanced registered nurse practitioner (“ARNP”) can testify as an expert with respect to the applicable standard of care, but it has been less clear as to whether an ARNP can testify on the issue of causation. Read on to learn more.
Claims Pointer: In this case arising out of a medical malpractice claim, the Washington Supreme Court held that an ARNP can testify on the issue of causation provided that the ARNP meets the threshold requirements for expert witnesses. The case changes how trial courts will approach an ARNP’s causation testimony, an important consideration for medical malpractice claims.
Frausto v. Yakima HMA, No. 93312-0, Washington Supreme Court (April 27, 2017)
Rudy Frausto (“Frausto”), a 70-year-old quadriplegic man, checked into Yakima HMA, LLC (“Yakima”) for pneumonia. The nurses allegedly failed to provide proper care during his stay, including moving him, turning him, and providing him with an appropriate bed. Frausto developed pressure ulcers, and he filed suit against Yakima.
Yakima moved for summary judgment, arguing that Frausto had failed to provide expert testimony as required by statute. Frausto then offered the sworn affidavit if an ARNP with more than 30 years of experience. The ARNP stated that her professional opinion was that the treating nurses breached the applicable standard of care and that this breach proximately caused Frausto’s pressure ulcers. However, the trial court held that while the ARNP was qualified as an expert and could speak to the applicable standard of care, the law prohibited her from testifying on the issue of proximate cause. The trial court then granted summary judgment in favor of Yakima, and Frausto appealed.
The Supreme Court framed the issue before it narrowly: whether an ARNP may express an opinion on proximate cause in...