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Lo v. Superior Court - 9/20/2012

Arizona Court of Appeals Division Two Holds that Medical Standard of Care Expert Witness Required by A.R.S. § 12-2603 Need Not Match All Specialties of Defendant Doctor.

Plaintiff filed suit alleging medical malpractice arising out of a laser facial skin treatment by a board-certified ophthalmologist with a claimed subspecialty in plastic surgery.  The defendant doctor moved to disqualify the plaintiff’s standard-of-care expert, a board-certified plastic surgeon. 

Defendant argued that the expert was not qualified under A.R.S. § 12-2604(A)(1) to testify against the defendant because the expert was not a board-certified ophthalmologist.  Defendant further argued that he was entitled to summary judgment because plaintiff could not meet her burden of demonstrating that the defendant had violated the appropriate standard of care.

The trial court declined to preclude the plaintiff’s standard-of-care expert and denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.  Defendant petitioned the Court of Appeals for special action review.  The Court of Appeals accepted jurisdiction but denied relief.

Section 12-2604(A)(1) requires that a medical standard-of-care expert be a specialist or, if applicable, a board-certified specialist in the same specialty as the defendant doctor.  The statute does not, however, require the standard-of-care expert to match each specialty of a defendant doctor with multiple specialties.

Although the defendant doctor was a board-certified ophthalmologist, he also claimed to be a plastic surgery specialist.  The plaintiff’s standard-of-care expert was a board-certified plastic surgery specialist and, therefore, was qualified under § 12-2604 to testify concerning the appropriate standard of care for the procedure at issue.  Accordingly, the respondent trial judge did not abuse his discretion in denying the defendant’s motion to disqualify the plaintiff’s expert and motion for summary judgment.

Chief Judge Howard authored the opinion; Presiding Judge Eckerstrom and Judge Brammer, sitting by assignment, concurred.

Posted by: Mark Hummels

Posted On: 9/25/2012