Washington Case Law Update: Is Medical Expertise Required to Establish the Standard of Care and Causation?


Washington Case Law Update: Is Medical Expertise Required to Establish the Standard of Care and Causation?

From the desk of Thomas McCurdy: In a medical malpractice lawsuit, must the plaintiff provide medical expert testimony to establish the standard of care and causation, and therefore defeat the defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment? Read on to find out.

Claims Pointer: In this case arising out of a medical malpractice suit, the Washington Court of Appeals considered whether the plaintiff could establish the standard of care and causation without providing medical expert testimony. This case serves as a reminder of the necessity of medical expert testimony in a Motion for Summary Judgment.

Brownfield v. Valley General Hospital Foundation, No. 75553-6-I, Washington Court of Appeals Div. I (October 2, 2017) (unpublished)

After undergoing shoulder surgery, Kirt Brownfield (“Brownfield”) began physical therapy at the Valley General Hospital Foundation (“Valley General”). Brownfield’s shoulder allegedly began to improve until it was reinjured during treatment by a new therapist. According to Brownfield, the therapist performed a new movement on his arm, without discussing the risks, benefits, or obtaining consent to perform the movement. As a result of the new shoulder injury, Brownfield had to undergo additional surgery.

Brownfield filed suit against Valley General in 2015. He alleged medical malpractice, claiming that his shoulder injury was due to the failure of Valley General’s employee to exercise reasonable prudent, “which fell below the applicable standard of care.” Valley General responded by moving for summary judgment, arguing that Brownfield lacked medical evidence to support his claim. The trial court granted Valley General’s Motion for Summary Judgment and dismissed Brownfield’s complaint.

The Washington Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s order granting summary judgment. The court explained that summary judgment is...

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