Arizona Medical Malpractice Expert Rule Overturned

The Arizona Court of Appeals found unconstitutional yesterday an Arizona law placing limitations on whether an expert can testify at trial in medical malpractice lawsuits.

The Plaintiff’s lawyer, James J. Syme, Jr., found himself in a pickle because the trial judge, Maricopa County Judge Michael C. Jones granted the defendant’s motion in limine to strike Plaintiff’s only medical expert. Judge Jones reasonably allowed Plaintiff time to find another expert, but the Plaintiff’s lawyer could not locate another expert. (Note: this is usually not the sign of a great medical malpractice case.)

The Arizona Court of Appeals found that the statute Judge Jones relied upon in excluding the expert was unconstitutional because it violates the separation of powers provision of the Arizona Constitution. Specifically, the court said that the Arizona Constitution confers on the Arizona Supreme Court the “power to make rules relative to all procedural matters in any court” and the Arizona Supreme Court has previously held that its rulemaking power is “exclusive and may not be infringed by the legislature.”

I’m thrilled that the Plaintiff gets a shot to have her medical malpractice lawsuit heard by a jury and it sounds like the court makes the right call based on the existing case law. I also think the limitations placed by the statute—section 12-2604(A) are completely unreasonable. But does it make me a little uneasy that the legislature that is elected by the people cannot interfere in such matters? Yeah.

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