Naprapaths may testify as experts even if licensed to practice in a State outside the one where the cause of action arises

Evidence obtained from health care professionals may be crucial in tort cases involving physical injury, especially on issues such as the proximate cause of the injury and the nature and extent of the same. However, in one such case in the State of Indiana, it became a point of contention whether the deposition of a naprapath licensed to practice in another State should be admitted into evidence. Naprapathy is a branch of alternative medicine that employs no medications but uses manipulation of muscles, joints, ligaments, etc., to stimulate the natural healing process.

In Walnut Creek Nursery, Inc., d/b/a Alsip Home & Nursery v. Barbara Banske (2015 Ind. App. LEXIS 100), the Court of Appeals of Indiana upheld the decision of the Lake Superior Court to award the plaintiff-respondent damages of US$ 243000 against the appellant-defendants, after having admitted on record excerpts from the deposition made by a naprapath who treated the plaintiff after she sustained the physical injury in issue. The primary facts of the case are as follows:

Barbara Banske, a resident of Lansing, Illinois, slipped on a floor mat and fell on her side while on Alsip’s floor mat and fell on her side while on Alsip’s premises located in St. John’s, Indiana. Subsequently, Bankse sought treatment from Laura Grice, a naprapath licensed in Illinois, whose services the plaintiff had obtained on a few previous occasions as well.

Banske had filed a complaint against Alsip seeking to recover damages for the injuries alleged to have sustained from the fall. Alsip took a discovery deposition of Grice in Illinois, and both counsel for Alsip and Banske questioned her. Later, Alsip filed a motion in limine requesting the exclusion of Grice’s deposition on various grounds. Judge Sedia of the Lake Superior Court, who initially heard the case denied the motion, deeming Grice to be fit to testify, provided the extent of the testimony remained “within the confines of her skill”. However, Judge Sedia later recused herself from the case and the matter was transferred to Judge John R. Pera. Alsip renewed the motion in limine after Banske introduced excerpts from Grice’s deposition. The excerpts were admitted as evidence during the trial, and a verdict finding Alsip 90% at fault for Banske’s injury was returned by the jury.

Alsip appealed against the judgement, challenging, inter alia, the admissibility of Grice’s testimony. The Court of Appeals found that Alsip had waived all issues but one regarding the admissibility of the deposition testimony, on account of its failure to raise objections with respect to the same during the trial. Thus, the only issue left for the Court to rule on was, whether a naprapath who is licensed in a different state be allowed to testify as to the treatment of a patient where the cause of action lay in Indiana.

The Court observed that Grice was qualified to testify as an expert in so far it dealt with the treatment accorded to Banske in the State of Illinois. The Court understood that such testimony would be helpful in the determination of the nature of the injuries Grice attempted to treat and the naprapathic methods employed for this purpose.

Further, applying the rationale expressed in an earlier decision, in Kyowski v. Burns (388 N.E. 2d 770 (Ill.App. Ct. 1979)), the Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court did not err in law by admitting Grice’s testimony as it was sufficiently connected to Banske’s injury, keeping in view the fact that Banske had previously subjected herself to Grice’s treatment, which placed Grice in good stead to testify about the difference in Banske’s health, before and after the fall, from the standpoint of a naprapath.