eNotes: Liability – October 2022 – Federal
October 03, 2022
SIGNIFICANT CASE SUMMARIES
FEDERAL CASE SUMMARY
Bixler v. Lamendola
United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania
Decided: July 5, 2022
Expert medical testimony not required where causation of injury is obvious.
Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle accident with Defendant when Defendant attempted to make a U-turn in front of Plaintiff’s vehicle. Despite bumps and bruises from the accident, Plaintiff initially declined medical treatment. Within two days, Plaintiff’s hand became numb. He immediately sought treatment which included diagnostic tests that revealed a pinched nerve in his neck. Plaintiff elected to seek no additional treatment, as was an option offered him by his physicians, but continued to experience stiffness in his neck and numbness in his hand despite never having any such symptoms before the accident. When Plaintiff failed to produce a medical expert report, Defendant sought summary judgment contending that causation of the injuries could not be established without expert testimony.
In denying the Motion for summary judgment, the Court noted that expert medical testimony is not required to prove causation in personal injury cases where there is an obvious causal relationship between the alleged negligent act and the injury claimed. The Court observed that a causal relationship is “obvious” where the injury is either an immediate and direct result of the negligence, or the natural and probable result of the negligence. These cases typically share the common traits of symptoms presenting immediately after an accident or within a short time thereafter, and the alleged injury being of the sort one would reasonably expect to result from the accident. The Court explained that the case before it was not a case involving a complex medical history, preexisting conditions or significant delay between the accident and treatment. As such, the Court determined that a jury could causally link the Plaintiff’s injury to the accident without the aid of expert testimony.
The Trial Court denied summary judgment ruling that expert testimony was not necessary where the injury claimed had an obvious causal relationship to the alleged negligence of the defendant.
Questions about this case can be directed to James F. Swartz, III at (610) 332-7028 or firstname.lastname@example.org.