When An Expert Is Not An Expert: Ga. Supreme Court Clarifies Medical Expert Witness Requirements


By: Taryn Kadar
In Postell v. Hankla, decided on October 7, 2013, the Georgia Supreme Court found that Georgia’s expert witness statute (OCGA § 24-7-702) does not permit a physician to testify as to the standard of care applicable to a nurse midwife, even when the physician has extensive education, training, and experience regarding the medical treatment at issue.  The Court made it very clear that in order to qualify under Georgia’s expert witness statute, the expert must: (1) be licensed; (2) actively practice OR teach the area in which the opinion is to be given; AND (3) either be a member of the same profession of the individual whose conduct is at issue, or have supervised/taught/instructed the profession at issue. Here, because the physician was not in the same profession, or had not supervised/taught/instructed nurse midwives, the physician did not qualify as an expert and could not give standard of care opinions.  This lesson applies to all medical malpractice cases.  Accordingly, O.C.G.A. § 24-7-702 needs to be closely scrutinized in making decisions as to expert witnesses in medical malpractice cases.