The “Common Knowledge” Exception to the Expert Requirement in Alabama

August 23, 2013

Morgan v. Publix Super Markets Inc. — So.3d —, 2013 WL 4294149 (Ala. 2013)

In this case, the Alabama Supreme Court decided that the “common knowledge” exception to the expert testimony requirement applies to a suit alleging that a pharmacy negligently filled the plaintiff’s prescription with the incorrect medication and caused her physical problems (swelling on the face, tingling lips, hives, and painful scales and hyper-pigmentation around the mouth and eyelids).

The Court reaffirmed its previous holding that the Alabama Medical Liability Act applies to pharmacists, as these are included within the Act’s definition of “other health-care providers” (Cackowski v. Wal–Mart Stores, Inc., 767 So.2d 319, 324–25 (Ala. 2000). Hence, if the “common knowledge” exception were inapplicable, the plaintiff would have been required to identify the experts designated to testify about the standards of care broken by the pharmacy; and her experts—physicians, rather than pharmacists—would have been ineligible for that role.

The Court also clarified that the “common knowledge” exception is not limited to circumstances covered by the res ipsa loquitur presumption.