Court Discusses Admissibility of Expert Opinions in Medical Malpractice Cases

In medical malpractice cases, to establish liability and damages the plaintiff will typically have to retain one or more medical experts. As such, it is not uncommon for a defendant to try to defeat a plaintiff’s claims by arguing that their expert should not be permitted to testify. As discussed in a recent medical malpractice ruling, the courts engage in a multi-step process when faced with challenges to the admissibility of expert opinions. If you suffered losses due to the carelessness of a doctor or dentist, it is wise to meet with a Maryland medical malpractice attorney promptly.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiffs brought a medical malpractice suit against the defendant, alleging negligence in the dental care administered to plaintiff-wife. The claim asserted that a proper biopsy and diagnosis by the defendant in August or December 2015 could have prevented a subsequent neck dissection and radiation therapy.

Reportedly, the defendant moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the opinions of the plaintiffs’ expert witness were inadmissible. First, the defendant contended that the plaintiff’s expert could not provide admissible evidence to establish causation. Second, the defendant asserted that the plaintiffs had not demonstrated the existence of any causation evidence related to a specific appointment. Lastly, the defendant argued that the plaintiffs failed to provide evidence that the defendant breached the standards of care during certain treatments.

Admissibility of Expert Opinions

The court noted that Federal Rule of Evidence 702 governs the admissibility of expert testimony. It requires that expert testimony be based on sufficient facts or data, the product of reliable principles and methods, and reliably applied to the facts of the case. Trial judges serve as gatekeepers to ensure the methodology underlying the expert testimony is valid and the expert’s conclusions are based on “good grounds.” The court has broad discretion in determining whether to admit or exclude expert testimony.

Challenges to expert testimony are typically brought in pretrial proceedings through motions in limine or “Daubert motions.” The court noted that it approached challenges within motions for summary judgment with caution, as judges expressed concern about the premature nature of such motions. However, the decision to conduct a reliability and helpfulness analysis at the summary judgment stage is within the discretion of the court.

In this case, the defendant’s admissibility arguments focused on the plaintiff’s expert’s causation opinions. In conducting its analysis, it considered whether the expert’s causation opinions meet the requirements of sufficiency, reliability, and applicability to the case. Ultimately, it found that the plaintiffs’ met their burden of proving that their expert’s testimony should be admitted. Thus, the court denied the defendant’s motion.

Talk to a Trusted Maryland Attorney

Dentists, like all healthcare providers, have an obligation to provide their patients with adequate care, and if they neglect to do so, they may be liable for medical malpractice. If you suffered harm due to a negligent dentist, smart to talk to an attorney. The trusted Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at Arfaa Law Group can advise you of your rights and aid you in seeking the best legal outcome available.  To set up a conference, you can contact us through our online form or by calling (410) 889-1850.

Contact Information