Sometimes it is hard to pinpoint what actually caused a harm, like a medical injury. But we can use the process of elimination. An opthalmologist expert offered an opinion based on the process of elimination—differential etiology, in medical jargon. But the trial court excluded it, and then granted the defendant hospital’s motion for nonsuit.
That was an abuse of discretion, held the appellate court in Siemon v. Regents of the University of California (D1d1 Oct. 19, 2022 no. A160654) 2022 WL 12083207 (nonpub. opn.). Differential etiology—i.e., process of elimination—is a valid method of establishing proximate causation, so long as the jury finds it credible.
These close legal calls on expert evidence are often made during the trial, and the parties have to go through trial, judgment, postjugment motions, and appeals before knowing whether the key evidence in the case stays in or comes out.
Here, the trial court made the call before trial began, and the Court of Appeal weighed in on the call after a nonsuit. When the parties start trial again, the plaintiff will be armed with the Court of Appeal’s observation that the plaintiff’s evidence “would be sufficient to support a judgment in [her] favor.” That counts for something.