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Court Analyzes Admissibility of Expert Testimony in Maryland Medical Malpractice Cases

Medical malpractice cases arising out of a doctor’s failure to diagnose a patient often involve complicated issues and conflicting positions regarding what harm the patient sustained due to the delay in receiving a proper diagnosis. Thus, in cases in which the patient alleges a doctor committed malpractice by failing to diagnose the patient, expert testimony is needed to establish the doctor’s liability and the patient’s harm. In a recent case in which the plaintiff alleged she suffered harm due to her doctor’s failure to diagnose breast cancer, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland discussed the scope of expert testimony permitted. If you sustained damages due to a delayed or inaccurate diagnosis, you should meet with a skillful Maryland malpractice attorney to discuss what evidence you must produce to hold your care provider liable for your harm.

Facts Regarding the Plaintiff’s Treatment and the Underlying Trial

Allegedly, the plaintiff noticed a lump in her right breast, which she reported to the defendant, her gynecologist. She underwent diagnostic testing, which reportedly revealed no evidence of malignancy. The plaintiff continued to treat with the defendant, who repeatedly advised her that the lump was nothing to worry about. In 2012, the plaintiff underwent a biopsy, which revealed that she had cancer in her right breast. She subsequently underwent a bilateral mastectomy. She then sued the defendant for medical malpractice, arguing that the defendant breached the standard of care by failing to diagnose her cancer in a timely manner.

Following a trial, the jury found in favor of the plaintiff. The defendant appealed, and the court issued an opinion reversing the verdict and remanding the case for further proceedings. Following the second trial, the plaintiff appealed, arguing, in part, that the trial court erred in precluding testimony from the plaintiff’s expert witness.

Admissibility of Expert Testimony Under Maryland Law

Under Maryland law, expert testimony is admissible if it will help the fact finder understand the evidence or determine a fact at issue. To determine whether an expert should be permitted to testify, the court will assess whether the expert is qualified, whether by skill, training, knowledge, or experience, whether the expert’s testimony is appropriate for the subject issue, and whether the expert has adequate factual support for his or her opinion. The party that seeks to introduce the expert bears the burden of proving the expert satisfies the requirements to testify.

Here, the plaintiff’s expert, an oncologist, sought to testify regarding the plaintiff’s damages. Specifically, he opined that if the plaintiff had been diagnosed earlier, she would have been treated with a lumpectomy followed by radiation, rather than a mastectomy. The defendant argued that the court properly excluded the plaintiff’s expert’s testimony because he did not specialize in breast cancer. The court disagreed, finding that an expert does not have to be a specialist to testify on certain matters. Rather, an expert is qualified as long as he or she is reasonably familiar with the subject issue, due to training, experience, or a combination of factors. Thus, the court reversed the trial court ruling precluding the plaintiff’s expert from testifying.

Consult an Experienced Maryland Malpractice Attorney

If cancer is not diagnosed in a timely manner, it can cause devastating harm. If your doctor failed to diagnose you properly, thereby causing you harm, it is advisable to consult an experienced Maryland malpractice attorney with experience handing failure to diagnose matters to discuss your potential case. At the Arfaa Law Group, our assertive attorneys are proficient at helping people injured by negligent doctors seek recourse for their harm. You can reach us by calling (410) 889-1850 or through our form online to set up a free and confidential conference.