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New Mexico Court of Appeals Allows Emergency Room Doctor to Provide Expert Testimony in Foot Amputation Case

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The Court of Appeals of New Mexico has held that an emergency room doctor is qualified to testify as an expert in a medical malpractice lawsuit. In Quintana v. Acosta, a diabetic man, Richard Quintana, was treated by Dr. Steven Acosta at a Lovington hospital emergency room for a puncture wound to his left foot. At the hospital, Mr. Quintana’s wound was cleaned by a nurse and he was discharged after his physician determined a prescription for prophylactic antibiotics was not necessary. Mr. Quintana was also instructed in writing to follow up with his primary care doctor.

Six days later, Mr. Quintana experienced complications while on a trip to Mexico. He was hospitalized and received intravenous antibiotics at a Mexican hospital before he returned to New Mexico. Upon his return, Mr. Quintana was admitted to the University of New Mexico Hospital where he underwent surgery to amputate his left foot. Following surgery, Mr. Quintana filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Dr. Acosta and the hospital where he is employed.

At trial, an emergency room physician, Dr. Robert P. Wahl provided expert testimony regarding Mr. Quintana’s emergency room treatment. After reviewing the facts of the case, Dr. Wahl stated Dr. Acosta violated the prevailing standard of care when he failed to prescribe prophylactic antibiotics to Mr. Quintana following his injury. Dr. Acosta responded by filing a motion to exclude Dr. Wahl’s opinion. A district court granted Dr. Acosta’s motion after concluding “Dr. Wahl was offering scientific opinions based on scientific knowledge.” According to the court, Dr. Wahl’s testimony did not satisfy the scientific knowledge factors required by Daubert-Alberico. Additionally, the district court held that Dr. Wahl’s opinion went “beyond the scope of expertise of the average emergency room physician.”

On appeal, Mr. Quintana argued that Dr. Wahl’s testimony was admissible due to his experience as an emergency room physician. According to the Court of Appeals of New Mexico, the Daubert-Alberico factors apply only to whether scientific testimony is admissible. Dr. Wahl’s testimony, on the other hand, was based on his knowledge, experience, and training. Because of this, the court held that the Daubert-Alberico factors were inapplicable and his testimony was improperly excluded. The appeals court then reversed the lower court’s decision to exclude Dr. Wahl’s testimony.

Contact the Fine Law Firm if you were hurt or a close family member was killed by a medical professional in New Mexico. Our skilled Albuquerque medical malpractice attorneys have more than 100 years of combined experience helping the victims of devastating personal injuries. To schedule a free, confidential case evaluation with a caring advocate, please give the lawyers at the Fine Law Firm a call at (505) 889-3463 or contact us through our website.

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