Maryland Appeals Court Reversals Dismissal of Medical Malpractice Claim

A Maryland medical malpractice claim requires an expert witness to testify in support of the plaintiff’s case.  Failure to secure an expert medical witness, or provide admissible expert testimony may result in a dismissal of the claim.  In a January 10, 2020 medical negligence case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed whether the testimony of the plaintiff’s expert witness was excluded improperly by the circuit court.  That decision resulted in a dismissal of the plaintiff’s case, prompting her subsequent appeal.

The plaintiff in the case had received medical treatment from the defendant after suffering fractures to her pelvis and arm.  The plaintiff alleged that the defendant failed to timely diagnose and treat an oral infection, which led to pain, an inability to eat, and weight loss.  To support her medical malpractice claim, the plaintiff presented an expert medical witness to testify.

After the deposition of the plaintiff’s expert witness, the defendant moved to exclude his testimony, arguing that he had failed to define the standard of care during his deposition.  The plaintiff sought leave of court to recall her expert and have him clarify his standard of care testimony.  The circuit court did not specifically address the plaintiff’s request, but ruled that the testimony would be excluded because he never specifically stated the standard of care.  The case was then dismissed, as he was the plaintiff’s sole expert witness.

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that counsel for the defendant did not adequately preserve their objections to the qualification of the plaintiff’s expert during the deposition, and therefore, the defendant had waived any objection to the witness.  Under Maryland Civil Rules, an objection to the competency of a witness, or the competency of the testimony of a witness, is generally not waived by a party’s failure to object during the deposition.  There is an exception, however, if the reason for the objection is one that could have cured or remedied had the opposing party presented their objection during the deposition.

After reviewing the record, the appeals court concluded that the exception did apply in this case to waive the defendant’s objection to the standard of care testimony of the plaintiff’s expert.  The court explained that if the defendant’s counsel had provided their grounds for the objection during the expert’s deposition, counsel for the plaintiff could have easily corrected the form of the questions in a way that could have clarified the expert’s standard of care testimony and cured the error.  As a result, the appeals court held that it was an error to strike the expert’s testimony and dismiss the plaintiff’s case.  Accordingly, the case was remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings.

At Foran & Foran, P.A., our skilled Maryland lawyers can help victims of negligence and their families pursue compensation for their injuries.  We represent plaintiffs in personal injury cases arising out of medical negligence, motor vehicle and semi-truck collisions, trip and fall injuries, and other types of accidents.  For a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, call Foran & Foran at (301) 441-2022 or contact us online.