In this medical malpractice case the claimant mother was 28 weeks pregnant when she presented in the emergency room complaining of neck pain. She was seen by a registered nurse and a family practitioner and was discharged with recommendation for massage therapy. She suffered seizures soon thereafter and underwent an emergency caesarean section. The claimant child was born with significant disability. The claimant mother suffered from pre-eclampsia which was not diagnosed when she presented at the hospital. The question was whether the nurse and doctor met the requisite standard of care when they saw the claimant mother in the emergency room (Pinch (Guardian ad litem of) v. Morwood, 2016 BCSC 75).
Lawyers defending the nurse objected to the admissibility of the opinion of a family doctor and denied he was qualified to give an opinion to the court on the standard of care expected of an emergency room nurse in a rural environment. Lawyers for the nurse claimed that that the doctor was not qualified because he is not a nurse or trained as a nurse and otherwise lacks experience sufficient to qualify as an expert on this issue. The court disagreed.
In allowing the family doctor to give opinion evidence about the standard expected of a nurse, the court commented,
 …The real test of qualification is whether the expert’s knowledge, skill, or experience is sufficiently reliable to be of assistance to the trier of fact (R. v. Fisher). That is a question of law to be determined in the context of each case. Generalized principles that a specialist cannot opine about the work of a general practitioner or that an opinion cannot be admissible if the expert has not practiced in the locale or in the exact circumstances of the defendant are not determinative of the analysis.
The family doctor was found to have extensive experience working with nurses in the emergency departments of rural community hospitals in British Columbia. He has trained nurses within that setting. He knows the team effort that is required and knows what is expected when a pregnant patient appears at a rural emergency ward. He “possesses the skill, knowledge and experience about standards of nursing within the emergency department to be of assistance to the court in this case.” His report was admitted into evidence.
Posted by Vancouver Personal Injury Lawyer Mr. Renn A. Holness, B.A. LL.B.
I’ve actually been reading about different malpractice cases, and this one was very interesting to me. I can see how it is easy for these cases to arise, especially when the family is in an emergency, and tensions tend to run high. In this case it was interesting to see the court disagree with the claims that the doctor was not qualified.