A Philadelphia federal court struck a blow this week against intimidation of medical expert witnesses, awarding almost $200,000 in a false light claim brought against the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). Decision.

The case was reported in BNA’s Health Law Reporter, with extensive commentary from CCL attorney John Vail.  CCL was a pioneer in fighting intimidation of medical expert witnesses by medical professional societies.

In the Philadelphia case, Dr. Stephen Graboff was awarded damages when the AAOS published results of its internal disciplinary proceedings, knowing those proceedings excluded evidence showing Graboff had committed no misconduct.

A decade ago a favorable Seventh Circuit decision encouraged medical societies to create systems for “peer review” of medical expert testimony, systems in which self-interested doctors reviewed expert testimony of doctors who had the temerity to testify on behalf of plaintiffs.  A well-reasoned decision from Florida, Fullerton v. Fla. Med. Ass'n, Assoc., 973 So.2d 1144 (Fla. 1st DCA), Opinion Withdrawn &  Superseded on Denial of Reh’g by 938 So.2d 587 (Fla. 1st DCA 2006), argued by Vail, helped put the brakes on the effort, as did a $350,000 defamation verdict in a Minnesota case Vail co-counseled, Yancey v. Weis (Dist. Ct., 4th Dist. Minn. 2009).

The BNA piece quotes Vail describing the rigors of cross-examination in a medical malpractice trial, the superiority of that method for finding truth, and how extra-judicial review of expert testimony is incompatible with trials.