Washington Case Update: Conclusory Expert Testimony Will Not Defeat Summary Judgment

Attorney Profile Case Update Template -2016 Kyle

Conclusory Expert Testimony Will Not Defeat Summary Judgment

From the Desk of Kyle D. Riley: In medical malpractice cases, the element of causation is commonly established with expert testimony.  However, the expert must be careful not to make conclusory factual statements.  Read on to see why.

Claims Pointer: In this case arising out of alleged dental malpractice, the Washington Court of Appeals held that the plaintiff’s expert’s testimony was conclusory in nature and did not establish causation.  The case is a reminder to experts, attorneys, and insurers alike hat expert testimony must not be conclusory in nature in order to establish causation.

Taylor v. Nohr, No. 74127-6-I, Washington Court of Appeals, Division One (November 7, 2016) (unpublished)

Kerry Taylor (“Taylor”) received dental care from Dr. Alan Nohr (“Dr. Nohr”) for more than three years.  During that time, Dr. Nohr extracted a decayed tooth, restored four teeth, and placed one bridge.  Nearly three years later, Taylor filed a complaint against Dr. Nohr, alleging he was negligent in his care and treatment of her.

Taylor obtained an expert, Dr. Kim Larson (“Dr. Larson”), who repeatedly testified during depositions that he could not say that any alleged negligence by Dr. Nohr caused any injury to Taylor.  On the basis of this testimony, Dr. Nohr moved for summary judgment, arguing that Taylor had not met her burden of proving causation.

Taylor responded to Dr. Nohr’s motion for summary judgment and attached a “corrected” transcript of Dr. Larson’s testimony.  In this corrected transcript, Dr. Larson changed his testimony to opine that Dr. Nohr’s negligence caused injury to Taylor.

Dr. Nohr replied, arguing that the court should reject Dr. Larson’s corrected testimony, and that even his changed testimony was insufficient to defeat summary judgment because it was too conclusory to prove causation.  The trial court agreed and granted summary judgment for Dr. Nohr. ...

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