U.S. Court of Appeals Affirms District Court Judge’s Order Barring Expert Testimony of Physician Specializing in Language Issues Related to Healthcare

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit has held that an expert on language issues and healthcare could not testify that several healthcare providers had breached the standard of care in their treatment of a patient who had limited use of the English language.

Dalip Basanti, who was a native of India, received treatment for back and shoulder pain from doctors at the Salud Family Health Center and the Platte Valley Medical Center. She later became paralyzed from the chest down and learned that she suffered from a benign endodermal cyst that had compressed her spinal cord.

She sued the U.S. and others alleging liability for medical negligence. Basanti sought to admit the expert testimony of Dr. Glenn Flores, a physician specializing in language issues related to healthcare, who was to testify that the defendants had breached the standard of care that caused Basanti’s injuries by choosing not to use interpretative services to communicate with her. Basanti had limited English language proficiency. The defendants moved to strike Dr. Flores’s standard of care and causation opinions. The U.S. District Court judge granted that motion.

On appeal to the U.S Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, the court affirmed the trial judge’s order finding that a trial court must ensure that an expert’s opinion is both relevant and reliable. The court cited case law in making this determination, stating that courts decide whether a witness is qualified by skill, knowledge, experience or education and whether his or her proffered testimony is based on sufficient facts or data. The court of appeals added that under relevant case law, merely holding a medical degree, such as Dr. Flores, does not permit a physician to testify on any medical-related issue.

The court applied these principles and noted that by his own admission, Dr. Flores had never diagnosed a patient with Basanti’s condition, was not competent to work on an adult patient complaining of her symptoms, did not know whether her symptoms were sufficient to diagnose her cyst or what would have been necessary to make such a diagnosis, and the doctor was not familiar with the use of thoracic MRI to diagnose adult patients. In conclusion, the court of appeals stated that the district court had not abused its discretion in concluding Dr. Flores was unqualified to give opinion testimony that the healthcare providers’ failure to use interpreters led to Basanti’s catastrophic injuries.

Basanti v. U.S., 2016 WL 6892749 (10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals., Nov. 23, 2016).

Kreisman Law Offices has been successfully handling medical negligence lawsuits, hospital negligence cases, physician negligence cases and wrongful death cases for individuals and families who have been injured, harmed or killed by the negligence of a medical provider for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and surrounding areas, including Arlington Heights, Berwyn, Hinsdale, Evergreen Park, Evanston, Cicero, Joliet, Gurnee, Round Lake, Barrington, South Holland, Calumet Park, Oak Forest, LaGrange, Villa Park, Westchester, Chicago (Lawndale, Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, Logan Square, Polish Village, Portage Park, West Ridge, Rogers Park, East Side, Riverdale) and Palos Heights, Ill.

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