Expert Article Library

Medical Testimony Okayed in Prescription Drug Case

Case Name: U.S. v. Katz

Court: District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit (http://www.ca8.uscourts.gov/opndir/06/05/052940P.pdf)

Date: May 9, 2006

Expert: Medical doctor-pain specialist Dr. Ted Parran

Issues: Standard of care to be followed by physicians in treating people suffering from pain or anxiety. Whether prescriptions written by defendant lacked a legitimate medical purpose.

Summary of Case: The defendant Dr. Harry Katz was convicted on 176 counts of illegally prescribing medications like Xanax, Valium and Vicodin outside the normal bounds of medical practice. He wrote prescriptions with no medical history or examination to people who paid him $40 dollars for each visit.

Role of the expert: The government called a medical doctor as an expert witness to testify about normal medical care for patients suffering from anxiety or pain. He testified that the prescriptions did not appear to be written for legitimate reasons.

Challenges to the expert’s testimony and court’s decision: Defendant challenged the expert testimony for claiming that the expert had testified about defendant’s subjective mental state (prohibited under Federal Rule of Evidence 704(b)). The Court held the expert testimony was not a statement of opinion about defendant’s mental state, and the expert specifically said he was not stating an opinion about what the defendant thought.

Defendant claimed the expert should not have been allowed to testify that defendant did not write legitimate prescriptions because that was for the jury to decide. The Court said expert testimony that tied standards of care to the existence of a legitimate medical reason to write a prescription was admissible because it helped the jury understand the evidence or determine a fact in issue, even though the testimony embraced an issue to ultimately be decided by the jury.

Defendant also claimed the expert testimony made it easier for the jury to convict defendant by effectively lowering the government’s burden of proof from beyond a reasonable doubt to mere negligence. The court said the jury instructions made it clear that was not the case.

Summary prepared by K. Tanner, Student, University of California, Hastings College of Law