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Medical Malpractice Cases: Certificate of Merit Required

In order to sue any board-certified health care provider in Maryland for medical malpractice, for any action filed on or after January 1, 2005, the plaintiff must obtain what is known as a certificate of merit (sometimes also called a certificate of qualified expert). The purpose of this certificate is to weed out potentially unfounded or unsustainable medical malpractice claims against these health professionals. Maryland law sets forth some specific requirements for the certificate of merit, and the courts have also been called upon to clarify the scope of these requirements. If you believe you have a potential medical malpractice claim, or are thinking about bringing a medical malpractice action against a board certified health care professional in southern Maryland, including Charles County, Prince George’s County, Calvert County and St. Mary’s County, contact the Law Office of Robert R. Castro to learn what else is required.

What Must be Included in a Certificate of Merit?

Under the Maryland statute that contains the certificate of merit requirement, the certificate must, in general:

  • Be from a health care provider in the same or a related specialty as the defendant
  • Allege that the care that the defendant provided was substandard relative to, or not in keeping with the usual standards of, others in the same profession with similar training and experience at the time that the malpractice occurred

Who can Attest to the Standards of Care in a Certificate of Merit?

Generally, and individual who will attest to the defendant’s departure from the usual standards of care in a particular profession must:

  • Have had clinical experience,
  • Provided consultation regarding clinical practice
  • Taught medicine either in the defendant's area of specialization or a related field, or in the field in which the care provided to the plaintiff was provided, within five years of the time of the alleged malpractice, and
  • Be board certified in the defendant’s specialty if the defendant is board certified, or in a related specialty, unless the care at issue was provided in an area unrelated to the defendant’s specialty, or the individual attesting to the standard of care health taught medicine in the defendant's specialty or a related field

How Has the Related Specialty Requirement Been Interpreted by the Courts?

Whether an individual attesting to the standard of care is in the same or a related specialty as the defendant can be a complicated and contentious matter. In several cases, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals has determined that in resolving this matter, the focus should not be on the individual health care professionals’ titles or the names of the areas in which they practice. Rather, the substance of their work should be examined to see whether there is enough "overlap" between their practice and the defendant’s practice to warrant or allow them to attest to the applicable standard of care.

(The cases in which this approach has been used by the courts include DeMuth v. Strong and Hinebaugh v. Garrett County Memorial Hosp.)

For more information about how the courts have interpreted the Certificate of Merit requirements, or for questions about other requirements in medical malpractice cases, call 301 870-1200 to reach an experienced medical malpractice lawyer at The Law Office of Robert R. Castro.

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