Medical Causation Testimony Not Always Required

The Oregon Court of Appeals, in Ouma v. Skipton, __ Or App __ (2014) (A151739), recently decided that medical causation testimony is not required for certain kinds of injury claims. The case is also a cautionary tale about the importance of plaintiff’s counsel getting key testimony into evidence at trial.

Ouma was another admitted liability personal injury case arising out of an auto collision. The case was tried on the issue of damages, only. Plaintiff claimed $55,000 in economic losses, but his treating chiropractor never testified that to a reasonable degree of medical certainty the injuries were caused by the collision. The trial court then struck the chiropractor’s testimony, and without that required testimony, the court granted a motion for directed verdict on economic damages. At the close of defendant’s case, defendant then moved for a directed verdict on the claim for $100,000 in noneconomic damages, arguing that because plaintiff had not introduced medical testimony on causation, plaintiff could not recover for those damages. The trial court granted that motion, too.

On appeal, the plaintiff salvaged the right to go back to the trial court on the issue of whether the collision
caused the plaintiff to suffer a fracture to his tooth, and thus to try again on his claim for noneconomic damages. The Court of Appeals correctly noted that this kind of injury was not a complicated one that required the plaintiff to present expert medical testimony to prove causation.

But what a painful reminder of how important it is to have and prepare the right witnesses!