Health Care Providers Do Not Need to "Line Up" to be Experts


In Staccato v. Valley Hospital, 123 Nev. Adv. Op. No. 49 (November 8, 2007), the Nevada Supreme Court resolved the issue of whether a physician is qualified to testify as to the proper standard of care in a malpractice action against a nurse when the allegedly negligent act implicates the physician's realm of expertise.

The Court concluded "that a physician or other medical care provider is qualified to testify as to the accepted standard of care for a procedure or treatment if the physician's or provider's experience, education, and training establish the expertise necessary to perform the procedure or render the treatment at issue."

In so concluding, the Court clarified "that a medical expert witness need not have the same credentials or classification as the defendant medical care provider. Instead, in accordance with Nevada's statutory scheme governing expert witness testimony, and in furtherance of sound public policy, the proper measure for evaluating whether a witness can testify as an expert is whether that witness possesses the skill, knowledge, or experience necessary to perform or render the medical procedure or treatment being challenged as negligent, and whether that witness's opinion will assist the jury.

In this case, the district court entered a directed verdict for the defense after disqualifying appellant's proposed expert witness, an emergency room physician, on the basis that the physician was not qualified to testify against a nurse who allegedly administered an intramuscular injection (a procedure for which the physician sufficiently demonstrated his expertise) in a manner contrary to the acceptable standard of care. Because the district court's decision was based on an incorrect legal standard, we reverse its judgment and remand this matter so that appellant's malpractice action may proceed."