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Maryland Plaintiff Prevails on Medical Negligence Claim Arising from Spinal Surgery

In Maryland, performing surgery on a patient without their informed consent may be grounds for a medical malpractice suit.  Generally, a medical expert is required to provide evidence of a doctor’s alleged negligence.  In a March 15, 2021 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a lawsuit against a surgeon for performing an allegedly unnecessary procedure on the plaintiff without her informed consent.  The matter came before the court on appeal after a jury ruled in favor of the plaintiff.

The plaintiff in the case had sought medical treatment from the defendant for low back pain radiating through her left leg and foot.  After several examinations, the defendant recommended surgery on both the left and right side of the spine, despite the lack of any symptoms on the plaintiff’s right side.  Following the laminectomy and bilateral laminectomy, the plaintiff experienced physical and neurological pain and disability.  The plaintiff then brought a medical negligence suit against the defendant, alleging that the surgery to the right side of her spine was performed unnecessarily and without informed consent.

Before the trial, the court granted the plaintiff’s motion to preclude any evidence or testimony concerning disciplinary action taken, and later overturned, against the plaintiff’s expert medical witness.  In so doing, the trial court found that such evidence was irrelevant to the credibility of the expert witness and that questions about it would be prejudicial.  The case was then tried over several days, after which the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff.

One of the grounds argued by the defendant on appeal was that the trial court erred by precluding evidence of the plaintiff’s expert’s prior discipline for testimonial misconduct.  The appeals court reviewed the evidentiary ruling using the standard for an abuse of discretion, which gives considerable discretion to the trial court.

When ruling on the admissibility of evidence, the trial court must consider whether the evidence is relevant to material issues of the case and helpful to a jury, or whether such evidence would be so prejudicial to a jury so as to outweigh its probative value.  The defendant contended that the trial court failed to engage in the discretionary weighing of factors when it precluded evidence of professional disciplinary action against the plaintiff’s expert witness.  The appeals court disagreed, noting that the trial court had conducted a separate hearing on the matter and allowed the parties to present their respective arguments.

The appeals court went on to find that the lower court did not abuse its discretion when ruling that the potential prejudice would outweigh the probative value of the evidence.  The court therefore affirmed the jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff.

If you are seeking legal guidance after a medical procedure or accident, the malpractice lawyers at Foran & Foran, P.A. can assist you.  We represent people who have suffered personal injuries due to medical negligence, motor vehicle collisions, unsafe property conditions, and more.  Schedule a free consultation with an experienced injury attorney by calling Foran & Foran at (301) 441-2022 or contacting us online.

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