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Georgia Court of Appeals Reverses Dismissal Based on Expert Affidavit – Health Law and Regulation Update Blog Post by Eric Frisch

Health Law and Regulation Update Blog Post by Eric Frisch

The Georgia Court of Appeals has reversed the trial court’s dismissal of a medical malpractice case based on deficiencies in the qualifications of an expert witness. Plaintiffs are the parents of an 18 year old who died of complications from lupus. Plaintiffs sued a psychiatrist and their employer for failure to recognize and treat timely the signs of lupus. Plaintiff attached to the complaint the affidavit of an expert rheumatologist, who opined that he was familiar with the signs and symptoms of lupus. Defendants moved to dismiss, arguing that the expert was not qualified because he is not a psychiatrist and for lack of specificity regarding the alleged negligent conduct. Plaintiffs amended the affidavit with more detail in response. The trial court held a hearing and granted the motion, ruling that the expert did not have sufficient expertise or experience to opine about the standard of care applicable to a psychiatrist.

The Court of Appeals reversed. First, the Court agreed with the trial court that Plaintiffs’ expert had sufficient knowledge of the signs and symptoms of lupus generally, satisfying the basic requirements of 24-7-702(c). Next, the Court held that Plaintiffs’ expert met the standards for familiarity with the standard of care, having actively practiced in diagnosing and treating lupus for more than three of five years before the incident. Finally, the Court reversed based on precedent that Plaintiffs’ expert did not have to be a psychiatrist or having specialized knowledge of the standard of care applicable to psychiatrists. The Court did not offer a lot of reasoning on this last point other than concluding that because the expert was otherwise qualified, it was not necessary for Plaintiffs’ expert to be a psychiatrist.

Take-home: It remains difficult to get a case dismissed for an insufficient expert affidavit. It can happen sometimes, but it is a nuanced and fact-specific analysis.

The case is Russell v. Kantamneni, ___ S.E.2d ___, 2022 WL 1576068 (Ga.Ct.App. May 19, 2022).

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