• New Jersey Supreme Court Rules Patients First Act Requires High Threshold for Expert Witness Qualifications in Malpractice Cases.
  • October 21, 2013 | Author: Michael G. Daly
  • Law Firm: Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, P.C. - Cherry Hill Office
  • Nicholas v. Mynster, 213 N.J. 463 (4/25/13)

    The New Jersey Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s decision to allow expert testimony from a witness who did not “specialize” in the same field of medicine as the defendant-physicians. Nicholas involved a malpractice claim against two physicians, among others, for the alleged negligent treatment of a carbon monoxide patient in a hospital. The Supreme Court ruled that under N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-41 (Patients First Act), an expert board-certified in internal medicine and preventative medicine, with subspecialty certifications in critical care medicine, pulmonary disease and hyperbaric medicine, was not qualified to establish the standard of care for the two defendant-physicians who were boarded in emergency medicine and family medicine, respectively.

    More specifically, although the expert was credentialed by a hospital to treat carbon monoxide patients, his board certifications were in different specialties than the defendants’ emergency and family medicine certifications and, therefore, failed to meet the “equivalent credentials” requirement ingrained in N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-41 .

    This important opinion marks a divergence from the longstanding parameters for expert testimony as were confirmed as recently as 2009 in Khan v. Singh, 200 N.J. 82, which involved negligence that occurred prior to the introduction of the Patients First Act in July 2004. The Nicholas decision is also likely to have ramifications on the pre-requisites for an Affidavit of Merit in health care litigation as N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-27 (Affidavit of Merit Statute) relies upon the Patients First Act in medical malpractice cases.