Alabama Medical Liability Act of 1987, § 6-5-540, et seq. and Necessity of Expert Testimony

Fletcher v. Health Care Authority of the City of Huntsville, [Ms. 1190706, June 30, 2021] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2021). The Court (Stewart, J.; Parker, C.J., and Bolin, Wise, and Sellers, JJ., concur) affirms the entry of summary judgment in favor of the Health Care Authority of the City of Huntsville d/b/a Huntsville Hospital entered by the Madison Circuit Court.

The Court notes (Ms. *9) that § 6-5-548(a) requires a plaintiff in a medical malpractice case to prove “by substantial evidence that the health care provider failed to exercise reasonable care, skill, and diligence, as other similarly situated health care providers in the same general line of practice ordinarily have and exercise in a like case.” To satisfy the burden of proving a medical-malpractice claim by substantial evidence, a plaintiff

“ordinarily must present expert testimony from a ‘similarly situated health-care provider’ as to (1) ‘the appropriate standard of care,’ (2) a ‘deviation from that standard [of care],’ and (3) ‘a proximate causal connection between the [defendant’s] act or omission constituting the breach and the injury sustained by the plaintiff.’ Pruitt v. Zeiger, 590 So. 2d 236, 238 (Ala. 1991) (quoting Bradford v. McGee, 534 So. 2d 1076, 1079 (Ala. 1988)). The reason for the rule that proximate causation must be established through expert testimony is that the issue of causation in a medical-malpractice case is ordinarily ‘beyond “the ken of the average layman.” ’ Golden v. Stein, 670 So. 2d 904, 907 (Ala. 1995), quoting Charles W. Gamble, McElroy’s Alabama Evidence, § 127.01(5)(c), p. 333 (4th ed. 1991). The plaintiff must prove through expert testimony ‘that the alleged negligence “probably caused the injury.” ’ McAfee v. Baptist Med. Ctr., 641 So. 2d 265, 267 (Ala. 1994).”

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