Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case that illustrates the importance of proper expert witness selection in Maryland medical malpractice cases. The case illustrates the importance of selecting an expert whose methodologies are reliable and generally accepted in the medical community.
Expert witnesses are crucial in medical malpractice lawsuits. Indeed, within 90 days of filing a case, medical malpractice plaintiffs are required to consult with an expert and obtain a certificate of merit stating that, in the expert’s opinion, the defendant’s conduct fell below the generally accepted standard of care.
Once a certificate of merit is obtained, an expert’s services are still almost always required at trial to establish that the care provided by the defendant was inadequate. This is because most jurors do not have the necessary knowledge of the field of medicine or the medical profession to make an educated decision on such scientific and specialized issues. However, like all evidence, an expert’s testimony must meet certain criteria in order to be considered.
In Maryland, Md. Rule 5-702 sets forth the analysis used by courts to determine the admissibility of expert testimony. Specifically, the statute permits expert testimony when it is needed to help the fact finder understand the issues in the case, and:
- The witness is qualified as an expert in the relevant field;
- The testimony is appropriate on the particular subject; and
- There is a factual basis to support the testimony.
While this sounds straightforward, there is significant litigation over the admissibility of expert witness testimony in most medical malpractice cases, making the expert-selection decision a very important one.
Indeed, a recent case illustrates one plaintiff’s difficulties in establishing her case without expert testimony after the court concluded that the expert’s methodologies were not in line with the medical community. Applying a slightly different standard from that which is used in Maryland, the court explained that in order for an expert’s testimony to be considered by the jury, it must be reliable and generally accepted in the medical community. Without establishing both factors, the expert’s testimony was prevented from being considered, and the plaintiff’s case was dismissed.
The case serves as a reminder to medical malpractice plaintiffs of the importance of vetting and selecting expert witnesses.
Have You Been a Victim of Medical Malpractice?
If you or a loved one has recently suffered harm after what you believe to have been negligent medical care, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Maryland medical malpractice lawsuit. The skilled Maryland personal injury and medical malpractice attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have decades of experience handling complex medical malpractice cases and have a broad network of expert witnesses we can consult on our clients’ cases. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with an attorney to discuss your case, call 410-654-3600.
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