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Maryland Plaintiff Appeals After Trial Court Precludes Expert from Testifying in Medical Malpractice Case

Expert testimony may be crucial to establish a medical malpractice claim in Maryland.  A party’s failure to identify a medical expert witness before the discovery deadline may result in sanctions.  In a July 7, 2020 Maryland medical malpractice case, the Court of Special Appeals reviewed the decision of a trial court to exclude the testimony of the plaintiff’s expert witness.  The plaintiff sought the appeal after judgment was granted in favor of the defendants.

The plaintiff in the case was involved in a car accident and suffered a neck strain.  She sought medical treatment from the defendant, a healthcare practice that included chiropractic services, and was treated by two doctors who were also defendants in the case.  The plaintiff brought a medical negligence suit against them, alleging that the chiropractic treatments performed by the doctors caused damage to a spinal cord stimulator that was previously implanted in her neck.

Before trial, the plaintiff had timely identified one expert medical witness by the required deadline.  At some point after the deadline, the plaintiff realized that her designated medical expert could not testify as to the causation element of her claim.  Almost two months after the deadline had passed, the plaintiff sought to add a board-certified neurosurgeon as an expert witness to testify as to causation.  The circuit court denied the request, and as a result, the plaintiff was unable to establish a prima facie case for medical malpractice.

On appeal, the court found that the plaintiff had not designated her second expert witness within the deadlines provided by the scheduling order.  The appeals court went on to consider whether the trial court had imposed the appropriate sanction for the violation, i.e., precluding the testimony of the late-designated expert witness.

The Maryland Rules of Civil Procedure identify a list of possible sanctions, which include prohibiting the party in violation from introducing the evidence at trial.  However, before entering such a sanction, trial courts are required to consider six factors: (1) whether the violation was technical or substantial, (2) the timing of the disclosure, (3) the reason for the delay, (4) the amount of prejudice to each party, (5) whether any resulting prejudice might be cured by a postponement, and if so, (6) the desirability of a continuance.

The appeals court concluded that although the decision to bar the plaintiff’s expert had a significant harmful effect, the factors provided by the Maryland Rules pointed towards sanctioning the plaintiff.  The court acknowledged that while sanctions generally must be proportionate to the misconduct, the Maryland rules do not require such an analysis.  The court therefore affirmed the judgment in favor of the defendants.

At Foran & Foran, P.A., our personal injury attorneys can provide diligent and trustworthy representation to victims of negligence.  We have the experience to litigate a wide-range of complex injury cases, from medical malpractice claims to wrongful death actions.  If you have been injured by a careless person or business, we are prepared to help you explore your legal options.  Call Foran & Foran at (301) 441-2022 or contact us online and schedule a free consultation with a personal injury attorney.

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