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Tennessee Appeals Court Upholds Exclusion Of Expert's Testimony Under Locality Rule In Medical Malpractice Action


HLD, v. 30, n. 4 (April 2002)

Tennessee Appeals Court Upholds Exclusion Of Expert's Testimony Under Locality Rule In Medical Malpractice Action

Mary Henry and Travis Henry brought a medical malpractice action in state trial court against Jeffrey R. Dell, M.D., an obstetrician in Knoxville, and Obstetrics and Gynecology Consultants, P.C. (collectively defendants), alleging Dell's negligence caused their infant daughter's death. The trial court granted defendants' summary judgment motion after finding that the Henry's expert witness, Dr. Joel S. Engel, was not competent to testify. According to the court, Engel, a general obstetrician in Atlanta, Georgia, did not meet the requirements of Tenn. Code Ann. � 29-26-115, the so-called "Locality Rule." The Henrys appealed.

The Tennessee Court of Appeals affirmed, holding the trial court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the expert's testimony. Engel's testimony that a national standard of care existed for obstetrics and that he was familiar with that standard was insufficient to establish his competency under � 29-26-115, the appeals court said. Similarly, the appeals court found insufficient Engel's experience as an independent medical examiner for Tenn Care of Tennessee, the state agency regulating medical care to the indigent, to meet � 29-26-115 requirements. The appeals court explained that, because Engle did not begin making Tenn Care reviews until almost two years after the alleged malpractice, his testimony did "not meet the language of the statute requiring knowledge at the time of the alleged malpractice." Accordingly, the appeals court affirmed the lower court's judgment.

A concurring opinion commented that "the General Assembly should revise Tenn. Code Ann. � 29-26-115 and bring it in compliance with how physicians are being trained and how health care is being administered to patients in this State."

Henry v. Obstetrics and Gynecology Consultants, P.C., No. E2001-01246-COA-R2-CV, 2002 WL 199723 (Tenn. Ct. App. Feb. 8, 2002) (10 pages).

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