The evidence and testimony presented in a Maryland medical negligence case may be crucial to the outcome. If one party objects to the evidence offered by an opposing party, the trial court will decide whether it is admissible. In a July 12, 2021 medical malpractice case, the Court of Special Appeals considered whether or not the lower court had erred in allowing evidence of the informed medical consent process, when the plaintiff had not asserted an informed consent claim against the defendant.
The plaintiff in the case underwent an outpatient hernia repair surgery performed by the defendant. Five days later, the plaintiff returned to the hospital due to abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. The plaintiff was transferred to the ER, and emergency surgery was performed to repair a colon perforation. She underwent two subsequent operations the following month.
The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice claim, alleging that her doctor breached the standard of care for failure to inspect for a colotomy and failure to perform the appropriate surgery, among other claims. Although the plaintiff did not assert an informed consent action, the trial court allowed the defendant to testify about the risks and complications of surgery that he discussed with the plaintiff before her operation. After the trial, the jury found the defendant was not negligent.
On appeal, one of the arguments raised by the plaintiff was that the trial court erred by allowing the defendant to testify about the discussions he had with the plaintiff regarding the risks associated with surgery. The plaintiff argued that the testimony constituted informed consent evidence, and that it was prejudicial because it suggested to the jury that she was aware of and assumed the risk of injury. The defendant argued that she had opened the door to the testimony.
In Maryland, the “opening the door” doctrine allows the admission of evidence that otherwise would have been irrelevant in order to respond to: (1) admissible evidence which generates an issue, or (2) inadmissible evidence admitted by the court over objection. Evidence may nevertheless be excluded if its probative value substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury.
The appeals court noted that the parties had jointly admitted into evidence a consent form, stating that the benefits and risks of the surgery were explained to the plaintiff. The court also pointed out that the plaintiff had testified about the discussions, staying that the defendant “was very cavalier in his attitude.” As a result, the court concluded that she had opened the door to questions posed to the defendant regarding the discussion of risks. Finding no error, the court went on to affirm the verdict for the defendant.
If you believe that you or a loved one are a victim of medical negligence, you can seek guidance from an experienced Maryland injury lawyer. At Foran & Foran, P.A., our dedicated attorneys help people recover damages after an accident or injury. We can assist with personal injury and medical malpractice actions, as well as motor vehicle collisions and other accidents. Call (301) 441-2022 or contact us online to request an initial consultation.