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Ruling on malpractice case cites need for expert testimony

July 30, 2021 GMT

PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona Supreme Court decision says medical malpractice lawsuits involving unclear causes of death or other injury can’t proceed without sufficient expert witness testimony providing guidance for jurors.

The court’s decision Friday stemmed from the 2012 death of a 4-year-old boy sent home from a surgery center after being monitored for an hour after a tonsillectomy and another procedure that included administration of general anesthesia.

Arizona law require that medical malpractice ’plaintiffs provide testimony on what caused a death or injury unless a jury could make that determination from “readily apparent circumstances.”

In the case stemming from the boy’s death, an expert witness for his mother said a longer observation period was appropriate and might have prevented her son’s death, while the defendants argued that the exert witness didn’t cite a specific standard of care violation that resulted in the death.

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With a dispute over whether an infection or an obstructed airway caused the boy’s death, it would have been improper to have jurors untrained in medicine “connect the dots” without adequate expert testimony to lay a foundation, the Supreme Court said.

The high court’s decision upheld a trial judge’s dismissal of the suit.