Paul E. Peel recently prevailed on an appeal to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania from a judgment entered against an interventional cardiologist, his employer, and several affiliated entities.

In Emery v. Groh, M.D., et al., the plaintiff’s decedent was referred to the defendant cardiologist to undergo a diagnostic cardiac catheterization.  Prior to undergoing the procedure, the patient advised the doctor that he was allergic to nickel.  The doctor informed the patient that his treatment options included stenting of the artery and noted that it was not possible to choose an exact course of treatment without knowing the patient’s specific anatomy or taking into account his clinical situation.

Due to his allergy, the patient initially objected to the implantation of a stent containing nickel.  However, after additional discussion with his wife and the doctor, the patient agreed to undergo the catheterization procedure and gave written consent to have a stent implanted if it was necessary.

After receiving the patient’s consent, the cardiologist performed the catheterization.  During the procedure, the doctor implanted a stent containing nickel into one of the patient’s coronary arteries.

Over the next several years, the patient complained of experiencing rashes and itching in the area where the stent was placed.  He and his wife later commenced an action against the defendants alleging that the doctor failed to obtain his informed consent to undergo the catheterization and breached the standard of care by implanting a stent containing nickel in his artery.  The case proceeded to trial and resulted in a jury verdict in the plaintiffs’ favor.  Following the entry of judgment, the defendants filed an appeal to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.

On appeal, the defendants asserted that the trial court erred in denying the defendants’ motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict because the plaintiffs failed to present sufficient medical expert testimony to meet their burden of proving that the cardiologist caused the patient any harm.  Specifically, the defendants contended that the plaintiffs’ medical expert failed to link the cardiologist’s alleged misconduct to the patient’s purported injuries.

After considering the parties’ arguments on appeal, the Superior Court concluded that the lower court erred in denying the defendants’ motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict.  In reaching this decision, the Superior Court held that the plaintiffs’ medical expert failed to testify with sufficient medical certainty that the cardiologist’s alleged tortious conduct caused the patient’s injuries.  The Court noted that, throughout trial and in his expert report, the plaintiffs’ expert proffered the opinion of the patient, not his own, regarding causality.  Moreover, the Court aptly noted that the plaintiffs’ expert actually acknowledged at trial that he was not sure whether the nickel stent implanted in the patient really caused the symptoms of which he complained.  Consequently, the Superior Court reversed the entry of judgment in the plaintiffs’ favor and directed the entry of judgment for the defendants.