Court Examines Qualifications of Medical Expert in Maryland Negligence Action

One of the elements of a Maryland medical malpractice claim requires the plaintiff to establish that the defendant’s actions fell below the standard of care of a medical professional practicing under the same circumstances.  To prove this element, the plaintiff must present a qualified medical expert to testify that the defendant breached the standard of care.  In an October 2, 2020 case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered whether the testimony of the plaintiff’s medical expert was precluded by the “twenty-percent rule,” which generally bars experts who spend more than twenty percent of their professional activities directly involved in testifying as exert witnesses.

The plaintiff in the case was the surviving wife of the decedent, who had died from complications following back surgery.  She brought a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor who treated the decedent and the doctor’s practice group.  The plaintiff filed a certificate of qualified expert, as provided under the Maryland Health Care Malpractice Claims Act.  The certificate indicated that the plaintiff’s medical expert, an orthopedic surgeon, would testify that the defendant violated the standard of care by failing to recognize that the decedent was a high-risk patient and by not opting for alternative treatments to surgery.  The certificate also contained the required statement that no more than twenty percent of the expert’s activities were related to testifying as an expert witness.

At trial, the defendant argued that the plaintiff’s expert had not produced sufficient evidence of compliance with the twenty percent rule, and moved to disqualify him.  The trial court denied the motion, and the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff in excess of $900,000.  After trial, the defendant renewed its objection as to the expert.  The trial court reconsidered the issue, finding that it had erred in allowing the expert to testify, and entered judgment notwithstanding the verdict in favor of the defendant.  The plaintiff then appealed the ruling.

On appeal, the court explained that while an exhaustive accounting of the expert’s timesheets is not required, sufficient information is needed to make an accurate calculation.  The expert in the case had provided some tax returns and other documents.  However, the court concluded that, without any timekeeping logs, financial records, calendars, or other documentation that could be used to determine how much time the expert spent serving as a medical witness, the plaintiff failed to satisfy her burden of persuasion.   Accordingly, the appeals court held that the lower court did not err in finding that the plaintiff’s expert witness was not in compliance with the twenty percent rule.

If you are seeking trustworthy legal advice following an accident or injury, the Maryland medical malpractice lawyers at Foran & Foran, P.A. can assist you.  We understand that the expenses arising from a personal injury can be burdensome, and we can help you pursue the damages you are entitled to under the law.  Our experienced attorneys can handle any personal injury case, including motor vehicle collisions and premises liability accidents.  Schedule your free consultation today by calling Foran & Foran at (301) 441-2022 or contacting us online.

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