Maryland Court Considers Whether Defendant-Physician Was Qualified as an Expert in Medical Malpractice Case

There are several legal requirements necessary to bring a medical malpractice action in Maryland, one of which is expert testimony. The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered the issue of expert testimony in a recent case, Harper v. Calvert Ob/Gyn Assocs. of S. Maryland, LLC (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Dec. 6, 2016). The plaintiff filed a complaint against her obstetrician, alleging medical malpractice and failure to provide informed consent. The trial court granted judgment at the close of the plaintiff’s case, largely based on her failure to secure her own expert witness.

In Harper, the defendant cared for the plaintiff during her two pregnancies in 2002 and 2006. During her first delivery, the plaintiff gave birth to a healthy baby without any shoulder injury, but the baby’s medical chart included contradictory information of a shoulder dystocia and no observed abnormality. Although prior shoulder dystocia can pose an increased risk of a subsequent dystocia, this possibility was not considered in the plaintiff’s 2006 pregnancy because neither the plaintiff nor the defendant was aware of any issue during the 2002 pregnancy, and the defendant did not read the entire 2002 delivery summary document indicating dystocia. During the plaintiff’s 2006 delivery, a shoulder dystocia occurred, and the infant sustained a severe and permanent brachial plexus injury.

Before trial, the plaintiff’s two expert witnesses were unable to testify, due to illness and an unforeseen conflict of interest, and her request to substitute a new expert witness upon short notice was denied. The plaintiff served a subpoena to compel the defendant’s expert to testify in her case, which was quashed by the trial court. At trial, the plaintiff abandoned her medical malpractice claim and pursued her claim for lack of informed consent. The plaintiff called the defendant as an adverse witness, although the defendant was never formally presented as an expert. At the close of the plaintiff’s case, the defendant moved for judgment on the ground that the plaintiff failed to present the expert testimony necessary to sustain her case. The trial court granted the motion.

On appeal, the court held that the failure of the plaintiff to include the defendant’s expert in her pretrial conference statement alone provided justification for the court to quash the subpoena. Furthermore, the defendant was never properly qualified by the plaintiff as an expert witness. On the merits, the court found that the plaintiff failed to establish that a shoulder dystocia occurred on her first delivery, thereby relieving the defendant of the duty to warn the plaintiff of any material risks or dangers regarding the delivery of her second child. Due to the inherent flaws of the plaintiff’s case, the appeals court affirmed the judgment of the lower court in favor of the defendant.

Negligent medical treatment can result in serious harm, causing patients substantial expense and additional suffering. The Maryland attorneys at Foran & Foran, P.A. can represent victims of medical malpractice and other accidents in personal injury lawsuits, helping them seek compensation for their losses. To meet with one of our dedicated lawyers, call Foran & Foran, P.A. at (301) 441-2022 or contact us online and schedule a consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Court Rules Expert Testimony Required to Establish Plaintiff’s Claim for Lack of Informed Consent, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published August 18, 2016

Maryland Court of Special Appeals Upholds Majority of Million-Dollar Jury Verdict in Medical Malpractice Case, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published December 9, 2015

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