Expert Article Library

Medical Experts Excluded for Failure to Articulate Basis for Standard of Care

Case Name: Blevens v. Holcomb (Click here for the full text of the case)

Court: 8th Circuit Court of Appeals

Date: December 1, 2006

Expert: General medical practitioners. Dr. Mary Alice Helikson and Dr. David Fleischer, M.D.s

Issues: Whether the plaintiff’s experts had failed to articulate the standard of care from which they based their opinion?

Summary of case: Plaintiff’s daughter was born with congenital defects in her bowel and died after being taken to the hospital for complaining about severe abdominal pain and joint stiffness. Plaintiff brought a medical malpractice case against the doctor in charge. After a jury awarded over one million dollars to the plaintiff, the District Court granted judgment as a matter of law to the defendants.

Role of the expert: The experts were to testify to the appropriate standard of care and to the fact that Dr. Holcomb’s performance failed to meet that standard.

Challenges to the Expert's testimony: The defense claimed that the plaintiff’s experts failed to articulate and apply the proper standard of care. Even through both experts testified about the standard of care, they did in fact fail to explain the source of their standard. The Court of Appeal held that not laying this foundation was fatal to the plaintiff’s case. The District Court properly excluded the testimony of the plaintiff’s experts and granted judgment as a matter of law.

Summary prepared by M. Lanzone, Student, University of California, Hastings College of Law