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Court Discusses Relevance of Reputation Evidence in Maryland Malpractice Cases

In Maryland medical malpractice cases, the plaintiff must show that the defendant care provider deviated from the applicable standard of care. Generally, this requires the introduction of an expert opinion. It is not uncommon for both parties in a medical malpractice case to attempt to introduce evidence to impair the credibility of the other side, but not all character evidence is relevant or admissible. Recently, the United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit, discussed whether information regarding a defendant’s reputation or an expert’s potential bias should be admitted into evidence in a birth injury case. If your child suffered harm during birth, it is advisable to speak with a seasoned Maryland birth injury attorney regarding what recourse may be available for your harm.

Factual Background

Reportedly, the plaintiff mother was treated by the defendant ob-gyn during her pregnancy. During the course of her treatment, it was noted the plaintiff infant measured large and a C-section was scheduled in case one became necessary. However, the plaintiff mother wished to proceed with a natural delivery. During the infant’s birth, his shoulders were caught above the plaintiff mother’s pubic bone. An advanced procedure and traction were then used to deliver the infant. Following his birth, the nfant was diagnosed with Erb’s palsy, a condition that causes paralysis due to a nerve injury. The mother subsequently filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant on her own behalf and on behalf of her child. A trial was held, after which a jury found in favor of the defendant. The plaintiffs appealed on several grounds.

Relevance of Reputation Evidence

First, plaintiffs argued that the trial court erred in excluding evidence of the defendant’s reputation that was garnered from internet websites. On appeal, the court found that the evidence was properly excluded as irrelevant. The court stated that evidence is relevant if it tends to make a material fact more or less likely than it would be absent the evidence. The court noted, despite the issues of hearsay and the qualifications of the witnesses making the statements on the internet, evidence regarding the defendant’s general reputation did not speak to the issue of whether the defendant deviated from the standard of care in delivering the infant.

Admissibility of Evidence of Bias

The plaintiffs further objected to the court’s admission of evidence regarding their expert’s career history into evidence. Specifically, the plaintiff’s objected to the introduction of evidence regarding the expert’s prior membership in the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and his subsequent resignation following an investigation by the ACOG into an opinion the expert rendered in another case. The court affirmed the trial court ruling on this issue.

The court explained that as the expert’s opinion in the subject case disagreed with the standards set forth by the ACOG, his prior dispute with the ACOG was relevant for establishing bias. The court stated that evidence of bias, which can include membership in an organization, is relevant to the issue of a witness’s credibility. As the expert expressed his disappointment with the ACOG, his prior dealings with the ACOG were relevant.

Speak with a Trusted Maryland Birth Injury Attorney

Birth injuries can cause irreparable harm, and they are usually preventable. If your child suffered an injury at birth, you should speak with a trusted Maryland birth injury attorney regarding your potential claims. The proficient attorneys of Arfaa Law Group have ample experience handling birth injury cases, and we will work tirelessly to help you seek the full amount of damages recoverable for your harm. You can contact us via our form online or at (410) 889-1850 to schedule a confidential and free meeting.