See Tabitha N.S. vs. Zimmerman, 2008-Ohio 1639. This was a wrongful death and survival action alleging medical malpractice and negligence against the hospital, physician, and OB nurses in the hospital.
In this case the appellate court found the trial court did not abuse its discretion by allowing a Nurse Midwife and former obstetrical nurse to testify on the standard of care for OB nurses as to alleged negligence of the hospital nurses in support of the claim against the hospital on the theory of respondeat superior in a medical malpractice action.
The nurse expert witness of the plaintiff was called as a medical expert. The nurse expert testified that she graduated from nursing school in 1976, and went on to specialize in obstetrical nursing. She also holds a master's degree in nursing. She worked as a registered nurse in labor and delivery until 1983, when she went to midwifery school; she then took and passed the exam required for certification as a nurse midwife. Since that time, she has worked as a registered nurse and certified nurse midwife. At the time of trial, she was working as a nurse midwife at a medical practice in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She further testified that she is also certified as a family nurse practitioner and works part-time at a medical office.
She is certified in fetal monitoring and is a member of the faculty at the College of Nursing at Grand Valley State University, where she teaches obstetrical nursing. She testified that as a midwife she monitors women prenatally, attends labor and delivery and provides care after childbirth. She further testified that she has cared for and evaluated women in pre-term labor and has performed vaginal examinations on pregnant women in order to assess pre-term labor. She also has experience in assessing whether a woman is having contractions, as well as in determining the position of a baby prior to delivery.
The defense objected to the testimony. The jury returned a verdict against defendants. A judgment entry awarding on the survival claim economic damages of $390,000 and non-economic damages of $500,000 and, on the wrongful death claim, the jury awarded compensatory damages of $2,000,000.
On appeal, the appellate court noted that an expert witness need only aid the trier of fact in the search for the truth and need not be the best witness on the subject.
The court noted the nurse midwife's testimony clearly set forth her many years of experience in the area of obstetrical nursing, including labor and delivery. Although the expert witness no longer working in a hospital setting, her experience in the field of obstetrical nursing was ongoing at the time of trial.
The appellate court found the nurse expert witness demonstrated that she had some degree of "specialized knowledge, skill, experience, training and education" in the field in which she sought to render an expert opinion.