Wisconsin doctors not forced to be expert witnesses

Treating physicians still can be required to testify about observations made while treating a patient, court says.

By Tanya Albert amednews correspondent — Posted April 19, 2004

Print  |   Email  |   Respond  |   Reprints  |   Like Facebook  |   Share Twitter  |   Tweet Linkedin

Wisconsin physicians don't have to worry about lawyers dragging them into court as expert witnesses unless a doctor truly has information that no other expert can provide.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on March 24 ruled that a lawyer who misses a deadline to name an expert witness doesn't create the compelling circumstances needed to force a doctor to testify.

Although the deadline schedule in the case, Glenn v. Plante, became complicated as it bounced between judges, it still was not enough to require that the patient's treating physician testify as an expert as to whether another physician who treated the patient met the standard of care, the court said.

"It gives very clear direction," said Mark L. Adams, Wisconsin Medical Society general counsel. "It eliminates all questions the trial courts and appeals courts may have had."

The ruling overturns a lower court decision that would have forced a woman's new obstetrician-gynecologist, Charles H. Koh, MD, to serve as an expert witness in a medical malpractice lawsuit filed against her former obstetrician-gynecologist.

It is a victory for the WMS and the American Medical Association/State Medical Societies Litigation Center, which jointly filed a friend-of-the court brief in the case. The two argued that setting such a low standard for when expert witnesses could be forced to testify would have stripped doctors and other professionals of the right to decide whether they would provide their time and knowledge to the court.

A 1999 Wisconsin Supreme Court case outlined three requirements before someone can be made to serve as an expert witness: compelling circumstances, reasonable payment and no requirement for the expert to do additional preparation to give the testimony.

This newest ruling upholds that.

"The court maintained the privilege and didn't tinker with it," said Michael P. Russart, the attorney representing Michael T. Plante, MD, the ob-gyn sued by patient Sinora Glenn.

But the supreme court did say a court can require a treating physician to testify regarding his or her observations relating to the care his or her patient received.

"Such compulsion is considerably different than forcing a physicians to testify as to the standard of care and treatment provided by another physician," the court said.

"As noted by [Dr.] Koh in his letter, forcing a physician to serve as the lead expert witness in a medical malpractice action against a fellow local physician would be, at the very least, uncomfortable for such expert."

Back to top



Read story

Confronting bias against obese patients

Medical educators are starting to raise awareness about how weight-related stigma can impair patient-physician communication and the treatment of obesity. Read story

Read story


American Medical News is ceasing publication after 55 years of serving physicians by keeping them informed of their rapidly changing profession. Read story

Read story

Policing medical practice employees after work

Doctors can try to regulate staff actions outside the office, but they must watch what they try to stamp out and how they do it. Read story

Read story

Diabetes prevention: Set on a course for lifestyle change

The YMCA's evidence-based program is helping prediabetic patients eat right, get active and lose weight. Read story

Read story

Medicaid's muddled preventive care picture

The health system reform law promises no-cost coverage of a lengthy list of screenings and other prevention services, but some beneficiaries still might miss out. Read story

Read story

How to get tax breaks for your medical practice

Federal, state and local governments offer doctors incentives because practices are recognized as economic engines. But physicians must know how and where to find them. Read story

Read story

Advance pay ACOs: A down payment on Medicare's future

Accountable care organizations that pay doctors up-front bring practice improvements, but it's unclear yet if program actuaries will see a return on investment. Read story

Read story

Physician liability: Your team, your legal risk

When health care team members drop the ball, it's often doctors who end up in court. How can physicians improve such care and avoid risks? Read story

  • Stay informed
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • RSS
  • LinkedIn