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Trees v. Ordonez

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: 10-03-2013
Case #: S060752
Balmer, C. J. for the Court; Kistler, J.; Walters, J.; Linder, J.; Landau, J.; and Baldwin, J.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/docs/S060752.pdf

Tort Law: A non-physician may be able to establish the standard of care needed in a medical malpractice case involving a physician to overcome a motion for directed verdict so long as that person is an expert in the area.

Trees appealed the lower court's ruling that a medical doctor was necessary to prove the standard of care requirement in a medical malpractice action against her neurosurgeon. At trial, Trees introduced expert testimony from a biomechanical engineer as to the correct procedure and placement of a Synthes plate used in spinal fusion surgeries. At the conclusion of trial, the doctor moved for directed verdict based on the argument that Trees had only established a biomechanical engineer's standard of care and failed to establish the standard of care required by a neurosurgeon. The trial court granted the motion for directed verdict on the elements of breach and standard of care. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court, stating that Trees failed to “bridge the gap” between the mechanics of the plate and the standard of care required of her doctor. The Court concluded that so long as the person offering testimony could be considered an expert in the area in which they are testifying, directed verdict is not appropriate as it is an issue for the jury. The jury can give whatever weight they deem fit to the expert witness. Reversed and remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings.