Maryland Court of Appeals Clarifies Standard of Admitting Expert Witness Testimony in Personal Injury Cases

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.

Among these factors, the court found the following especially helpful: whether the theory or technique in question can be and has been tested; whether the theory or technique has been subjected to peer review and publication; whether the technique has a known or potential rate of error; and whether a theory or technique is generally accepted. Whereas this last piece used to be enough, the Court of Appeals in this decision clarified that it no longer was dispositive in future personal injury cases, and the trial court would instead need to consider many more factors before deciding the issue of admissibility.

Contact a Maryland Accident Attorney

If you or a loved one are suffered an injury during a medical procedure, you may have a viable Maryland medical malpractice claim. Contact Lebowitz & Mzhen, Personal Injury Lawyers, to learn more about how to file a personal injury suit and what you can do to pursue the monetary compensation you deserve. Our dedicated attorneys would love to meet with you to discuss your case in a free initial consultation. Call us today at 800-654-1949, or reach us through our online form.

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