When someone is injured in a Maryland accident and decides to file a personal injury lawsuit, their case may end up going to trial. Many people imagine trials look like how they appear on television—two lawyers arguing in front of a judge, questioning witnesses, and making a passionate appeal to the jury. While this does happen, a lot of the work involved in a trial actually happens behind the scenes, in deciding what evidence is and is not admissible. This is especially important when it comes to Maryland medical malpractice cases, which typically involve expert witness testimony. Recently, the Court of Appeals of Maryland issued an important opinion that clarified when expert testimony based on new or novel scientific principles is admissible.
In the 1970s, the court adopted what is referred to as the “general acceptance” test, which basically stated that courts should decide the admissibility of evidence by looking to see if there is general acceptance within the relevant scientific community. Not every member of the scientific community has to agree with it under this test, but it should be generally accepted by a fair proportion. However, in the 1990s, in response to a U.S. Supreme Court decision, Maryland adopted Maryland Rule 5-702, modeled after the Federal Rules of Evidence Rule 702, which laid out the elements of admissible expert testimony. This new rule did not, however, overrule the court’s previous decision that adopted the general acceptance test, leaving many confused about how the two were related.
Finally, the Court of Appeals addressed the confusion in a medical malpractice case. The plaintiff in the case was trying to submit expert testimony on the connection between lead poisoning and ADHD, and disputes arose over the admissibility of the evidence. In the court’s written opinion, it clarified that the general acceptance rule was no longer the proper test when deciding whether or not the evidence was admissible. Instead, ten factors from the Supreme Court’s 1993 decision in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals were to be weighed by trial courts.