In a Maryland medical malpractice case, the jury instructions are generally important for members of the jury to understand and apply the law to the evidence presented at trial. Sometimes, the instructions provided to the jury may be grounds for appeal. In January 25, 2019 opinion, the Court of Appeals of Maryland considered whether it was improper for the trial court to give instructions on both the standard of care for general negligence and the higher standard of care for a physician in a medical malpractice case.
The plaintiff in the case had sought medical treatment from the defendant after he experienced numbness in his fingers and intermittent neck and shoulder pain. The defendant recommended surgery to remove damaged discs from the plaintiff’s spine and fused vertebrae in his neck. After the defendant had performed the surgery, the plaintiff developed an infection at the location of the operation. The plaintiff was hospitalized as a result of the infection, and remained hampered by a severely limited range of motion.
The plaintiff sued the defendant for medical negligence and failure to obtain informed consent. At trial, the court gave the jury a general instruction on negligence using the reasonable person standard, i.e., that negligence is failing to use the caution, attention, or skill of a reasonable person would use under similar circumstances. The court also gave an instruction that specifically addressed the negligence of a health care provider, which read: a health care provider is negligent if he does not use that degree of care and skill which a reasonably competent health care provider engaged in a similar practice and acting in similar circumstances would use. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff on the first count for medical negligence.