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Expert Testimony in Medical Malpractice Cases

Medical malpractice lawsuits are brought against doctors and other health care professionals when a patient injury arises from negligent medical care. In order to be successful and recover damages in medical malpractice lawsuits, the injured victim must present evidence that establishes four elements:

  • The health care professional owed a duty to the plaintiff
  • The health care professional breached the duty owed to the plaintiff
  • The health care professional’s breach of the duty caused the plaintiff injury
  • The plaintiff suffered harm as a result of the injury

In medical malpractice cases, which involved scientific and technical evidence that can be complex and difficult to understand, expert testimony is generally necessary to help prove three of these elements:

  • The health care professional owed a duty to the plaintiff
  • The health care professional breached the duty owed to the plaintiff
  • The health care professional’s breach of the duty caused the plaintiff injury

Expert Testimony Rule in Maryland

In Maryland, a specific rule applies to determine when expert testimony can be used as evidence in a lawsuit. Under Rule 5-702 of the Maryland Rules of Evidence, in order for expert testimony to be admitted at trial, the court has to determine that the testimony will help the factfinder understand the evidence or determine a factual issue. The court will consider several factors in making this determination, including:

  • Whether the witness qualifies as an expert (based on knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education)
  • The appropriateness of the expert testimony on the subject matter
  • Whether the facts support the expert testimony

When (and Whose) Expert Testimony Establishes a Breach of the Standard of Care

Recently, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland decided a case that involved when (and whose) expert testimony is sufficient to show that a health care professional’s breach of a standard of care caused a patient’s death.

In Adventist Healthcare Inc v. Mattingly, there was no single witness who testified that a nurse's breach of the standard of care caused the patient’s death. However, the court found that taken together, the testimony of two experts – one in nursing and one is surgery – sufficiently established that the medical negligence caused the patient’s death.

The court in the Adventist case relied on another case, although not another medical malpractice case, for its decision. That case, Giant Food Inc. v. Booker, involved a worker’s compensation claim for injuries that allegedly occurred because of the plaintiff’s accidental exposure to Freon gas. With respect to proving causation, the court stated that an expert’s testimony, by itself, does not need to prove causation to a reasonable degree of probability. Instead, it is enough for the expert to testify about the possibilities if other evidence of causation is introduced along with the expert’s testimony, so that the fact finder can determine the issue at trial. (The Giant court also noted other Maryland cases that have reached the same conclusion).

For More Information

The Law Office of Robert R. Castro is an injury law firm that handles the following kinds of medical malpractice cases:

  • Birth injuries
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Doctor negligence
  • Surgical errors
  • Anesthesia errors
  • Brain injury
  • Cancer misdiagnosis
  • Colonoscopy errors
  • Hospital negligence
  • Medication errors
  • Stroke misdiagnosis

To reach a seasoned medical malpractice attorney, contact our Waldorf medical malpractice team at (301) 870-1200.

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