Nephrology Experts May Opine on Plaintiff’s General Condition as it Coexists with Diabetes, Osteoporosis

    Court: United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico
    Jurisdiction: Federal
    Case Name: Torres-Ocasio v. Texaco P.R., Inc.
    Citation: 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 56102

    Facts

    The plaintiff, Ramona Torres-Ocasio, slipped and fell after entering the mini-market on the property of the defendant Texaco of Puerto Rico, Inc. She claimed the area was covered with oil and water. As a result of her accident, the plaintiff suffered a right tibia and fibula fracture requiring an external reduction and an internal repair of the injury, including the placement of nine screws and a metal plate on her right leg. The plaintiff claimed that Texaco was guilty of negligence for failing to maintain safe conditions within the business premises. The plaintiff also alleged that she was permanently disabled as a result of the injuries caused by her fall. The petitioner claimed damages for physical and emotional injury as well as for medical treatment.

    The Nephrology Expert Witness

    The defendants retained the nephrology expert to testify on the plaintiff’s general health and her retinal health along with other indirect effects of diabetes and osteoporosis. The nephrology expert was board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine with a subspecialty in nephrology. The expert was also a renowned hospital physician, an author of peer-reviewed articles, and a professor of clinical medicine. 

    Discussion

    The claimant argued that the expert’s opinion lacked a connection to objective scientific criteria, concepts, or methodology and that it did not explain the rationale or evidence used in its formation. In addition, the plaintiff contended that the expert’s specialized knowledge of nephrology made him incapable of having the expertise, abilities, training, or education to understand the retinal effects of diabetes or osteoporosis.

    The defendant countered this argument by asserting that Rule 705 of the Federal Rules of Evidence said “the expert may testify in terms of opinion or inferences and give reasons therefore without first testifying to the underlying facts or data, unless the court requires otherwise” and also “the expert may in any event be required to disclose underlying facts or data on cross examination.” The defendant also argued that the claimant had opted not to depose the nephrology expert and thus lost their right to know the evidence on which the nephrology expert had relied before cross examination.

    The court noted that the nephrology expert was able to testify on the plaintiff’s general condition, eyesight, and osteoporosis, particularly as these health problems occur in the case of diabetes — a chronic disease well within the expert’s area of expertise as a nephrologist. The commonly accepted methodologies of an internist include reviewing the patient’s medical history and conducting a physical examination which were carried out by the expert without any usual or unjustified technique.

    Held

    The plaintiff’s motion to exclude the testimony of the nephrology expert witness was denied.