Ms. Y and her husband then consulted a plaintiff’s attorney, who hired an expert nephrologist to review her records. When the expert confirmed that Ms. Y indeed had a case, the couple sued Dr. A and Dr. T.
At trial, Ms. Y described the continued pain and ill health associated with her disease and transplant. Her husband testified that her condition had harmed their relationship such that they no longer were able to engage in marital relations.
Then the expert nephrologist took the stand to describe the applicable standard of care. He stated that about 50% of women with essential hematuria have glomerulonephritis.
“Based on your training and experience, did Dr. T’s failure to refer Ms. Y to a nephrologist constitute a deviation from the standard of care?” the plaintiff’s attorney asked.
“Yes. Ms. Y’s health suffered greatly as a result,” the expert said.
“If Ms. Y had been referred to a nephrologist, what would have been the likely outcome?”
“A nephrologist would have started immunosuppressive therapy early on in her disease, and he would have had a very strong chance of turning the whole process around, without its resulting in complete kidney failure,” the expert stated.
On cross-examination, the defense lawyer asked the nephrologist to explain how he concluded that 50% of women with hematuria have glomerulonephritis. The expert patted the large binder he had brought with him to the witness stand, citing the results inside.
The defense lawyer objected vigorously, arguing that he had not seen the binder’s contents. In any event, he argued, the expert should testify from his own experience and training. The judge agreed and instructed the expert to put aside the binder. At that point the doctor modified his response.
“In my 35 years as a nephrologist, about half of my female patients with hematuria have glomerulonephritis,” he said.
Dr. A and Dr. T each testified in his own defense. Dr. A said he had referred Ms. Y to Dr. T because of the hematuria and that he assumed Dr. T would handle the case from there. Dr. T stated that he was monitoring the patient’s condition but assumed Dr. A had run blood tests and would have notified him of any abnormalities.
After a few hours’ deliberation, the jury exonerated Dr. A and found Dr. T negligent, awarding Ms. Y $500,000 in damages.