Expert Article Library

Medical Expert Case Clarifies Requirements of the "Locality Rule"

Case Name: Scott v. Miller (unpublished) (Click here for the full text of the case)

Court: United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit; on appeal from District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee

Date: November 20, 2006

Expert: Medical Expert. Dr. Jeffrey W. Allen

Issues: Did the district court err in holding that the plaintiff’s medical expert failed to meet the requirements of the “locality” rule

Summary of case: In this medical malpractice case, Scott brought a negligence action against the Nashville clinic responsible for performing gastric by-pass surgery on his wife. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. On appeal, the Court of Appeals was asked to consider whether the plaintiff’s medical expert met the requirements of the Tennessee Medical Malpractice Act, Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-115(a)(1), which requires experts to have knowledge of the professional standard of care in a particular community (known as the “locality rule”)

Role of the expert: Dr. Allen testified that he was familiar with the Nashville, Tennessee standard of care and that the defendants had failed to meet this standard

Challenges to the Expert's testimony: The defendants challenged Dr. Allen’s qualifications under the “locality rule”, arguing that case law requires experts to satisfy a sort of checklist and list certain facts in order to demonstrate familiarity with the standard of care. For example, the defendants argued, and the district court agreed, that experts are required to identify the “state of the art equipment” existing in a particular community. The Court of Appeals rejected this argument, finding that Dr. Allen had adequately shown familiarity with the standard of care in Nashville. The Court stated that although the Tennessee “locality rule” requires a medical expert to offer facts to demonstrate knowledge of the local standard of care, it does not require the expert to meet specific requirements such as identifying the “state of the art equipment” in a particular locality. The Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s decision and remanded the case for further proceedings

Summary prepared by R. Zapparoni