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MEDICAL MALPRACTICE - SPRINGHILL HOSPITALS, INC. V. DIMITRIOS CRITOPOULOS

In Springhill Hospitals, Inc. v. Dimitrios Critopoulos, [Ms. 1090946, Nov. 18, 2011] __ So. 3d __(Ala. 2011), the Alabama Supreme Court held that the plaintiff's expert in a medical malpractice case was not a "similarly situated healthcare provider" as required by the Alabama Medical Liability Act. Furthermore, because Plaintiff only had one expert testify about the breach of the standard of nursing care, the Court entered judgment as a matter of law in favor of the individual defendants against whom that expert testified. Plaintiff suffered pressure ulcers following a heart procedure and subsequently sued a variety of individuals and institutions involved in his post-operative care. First, the Court held that the standard of care in the case "would be that of a cardiac-recovery nurse treating post-CABG patients to prevent pressure ulcers." After reviewing the extensive qualifications of the plaintiff's expert in wound care management, the Court concluded that "[i]t is clear that [Plaintiff's expert] was trained and experienced in the area of wound-care management and pressure-ulcer prevention." However, the Court held that "her testimony clearly indicates that she was not trained and experienced with regard to the prevention of pressure ulcers for patients in a cardiac-recovery unit, particularly regarding the concerns and/or risks involving fresh post-CABG patients" (emphasis added). The Court acknowledged that it had previously held that even if an expert witness is not a similarly situated health-care provider, the expert can offer testimony about the standard of care alleged to have been breached if he or she is highly qualified. However, the Court held that the plaintiff "has not shown that [his expert] was highly qualified with regard to the prevention of pressure ulcers in post-CABG patients who are in cardiac-recovery unit," and therefore the exception did not apply (emphasis added).

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