Appellate Update – The Fifth District Reversed Final Judgment in Favor of Plaintiff where Plaintiff called Physician’s Assistant to Testify as Expert Regarding Future Surgical Recommendations

April 26, 2016 by on News

In State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Long, No. 5D14-3704 & 5D15-1749, 2016 WL 1600606 (Fla. 5th DCA Apr. 22, 2016), the Fifth District reversed a final judgment in favor of the Plaintiff. At trial, in support of the Plaintiff’s claim for damages, the Plaintiff called a physician’s assistant who worked exclusively with an orthopedic surgeon to testify regarding future medical expenses. The physician’s assistant opined that the Plaintiff “will need possibly one or two more injections at most and then surgical decompression of the shoulder” and that the Plaintiff had “pretty much reached his limit as far as injections are concerned.” The physician’s assistant further testified as to the cost for future treatment. The orthopedic surgeon was not called to testify at trial. State Farm objected to the testimony arguing that the physician’s assistant was not competent to render an opinion on the subject matter. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the Plaintiff.

On appeal, the Court held that it was an error to allow a physician’s assistant to testify as an expert regarding the need and cost for a future surgery. The Court reasoned that the Plaintiff failed to satisfy his burden of establishing the basis for the admissibility of the physician’s assistant’s testimony. The decision to diagnose the need for a future surgery rests with the physician, not the physician’s assistant. The Court clarified that a physician’s assistant could qualify as an expert pertaining to the treatment and care provided; however, the subject opinion was beyond his qualifications and expertise.

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