Maryland Court of Appeals Analyzes Role of Medical Experts In Lead Paint Case

In a newly published opinion, the Maryland Court of Appeals considered whether a pediatrician, who has never treated a child victim of lead paint poisoning, may be permitted to offer an opinion as to medical causation of this condition. In Roy v. Dackman, the plaintiff filed a negligence action against the landlord and owners of a building for alleged personal injuries resulting from lead-based paint poisoning. The property was alleged to have been the only source of lead paint ingested by the child. The plaintiff identified two expert witnesses to testify as to the source of lead exposure, but only one of them as to the medical causation of the injuries suffered by the plaintiff. The testimony of the doctor in question established that he was well-read on the literature related to lead poisoning and its harmful effects on young children, but it revealed that he had never studied or treated directly in his practice an individual with lead-based poisoning.

The defendants filed motions to exclude the plaintiff’s expert witnesses, arguing that they were not qualified. The trial court agreed, and without the testimony of the plaintiff’s sole medical expert to establish causation, the court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the ruling, holding that he was not qualified to testify as an expert in lead poisoning, or offer an opinion as to the source or causation of lead exposure. However, when the Court of Appeals considered the requirements that must be met by an expert witness in order to qualify to testify as to the medical causation of alleged injuries from childhood lead exposure, it reversed the previous courts’ decisions as a clear abuse of discretion.

Under Maryland law, expert testimony may be admitted if the court determines that the testimony will assist the jury in understanding the evidence or determining a disputed fact. In making that determination, the court shall determine:  (1) whether the witness is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education; (2) the appropriateness of the expert testimony on the particular subject; and (3) whether a sufficient factual basis exists to support the expert testimony. As to the first requirement, a witness may be competent to express an expert opinion if the witness is reasonably familiar with the subject under investigation, regardless of whether this special knowledge is based upon professional training, observation, actual experience, or any combination of these factors. As a general proposition, in order to qualify as an expert, the witness need not possess special knowledge if the witness is generally conversant with the subject of the controversy.

The Court of Appeals found that, although the plaintiff’s witness may not be the most qualified expert witness on medical causation, based on his background, affidavit, and deposition, it is apparent that he is competent to testify as an expert as to medical causation under the standards set forth in Md. Rule 5–702. Nevertheless, the Court of Appeals agreed with the lower courts that, with no personal knowledge of how and where the plaintiff’s son was exposed to lead paint, he was not competent to testify as to the source of exposure. However, since the second witness was qualified to testify as to the source of the lead, it was improper for summary judgment to be granted against the plaintiff.

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury in Maryland, seeking compensation from those responsible can be an important decision. The personal injury attorneys at Foran & Foran, P.A. have the resources and experience necessary to pursue your personal injury claim. To discuss your case with one of our experienced attorneys, call (301) 441-2022.

More Blog Posts:

Plaintiff Wins Appeal in Maryland Lead Paint Case, Summary Judgment Reversed, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published October 4, 2015

Maryland Court of Special Appeals Addresses Discovery Issue in Lead Paint Suit, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published July 31, 2015

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