Broders v. Heise

In Broders v. Heise, 924 S.W.2d 148, 39 Tex. Sup. Ct. J. 752 (Tex. 1996), the trial court excluded expert testimony from an emergency-room physician who was prepared to testify about the cause of death in a medical malpractice action. The patient had suffered a head injury during an assault and was thereafter admitted to a hospital for observation and treatment. The patient was released the next day by her attending physician but returned to the hospital a few hours later, complaining of an intense headache, nausea, and sensitivity to light. A neurosurgeon examined her this time and determined that she had a fractured skull, with bleeding and swelling in the brain. The swelling could not be controlled, and the patient died the next day. The decedent's parents brought a wrongful death action against the hospital and three doctors. The defendants argued that the assault had caused an irreversible, untreatable, and fatal brain injury. No treatment, they said, whether negligent or not, could have been a cause in fact of the patient's death. The defendants presented expert testimony from two neurosurgeons to support their position. The plaintiff's expert would have testified that had the patient's head trauma been promptly diagnosed and treated during her first hospitalization, the patient would, in all medical probability, have survived. The court of appeals reversed and remanded, concluding that the trial court had erred in excluding this testimony. Id. at 148-51. The Court held that the trial court had correctly excluded this testimony because the emergency-room physician was not qualified as an expert under Rule 702 "on the issue of cause in fact." Id. at 153. While the emergency-room physician "knew both that neurosurgeons should be called to treat head injuries and what treatments they could provide, he never testified that he knew, from either experience or study, the effectiveness of those treatments in general, let alone in this case." Id. The Court further observed that a medical license does not automatically qualify the holder "to testify as an expert on every medical question." Id. at 152).