District Court Discusses the Standard of Care in Medical Malpractice Cases

In medical malpractice cases, the plaintiff must produce testimony from an expert that both establishes the standard of care and supports the argument that the defendant deviated from the standard. Thus, if a plaintiff’s expert fails to set forth evidence of the applicable standard, the expert may be disqualified, and the plaintiff’s claims may be in danger of being dismissed. This was demonstrated in a recent medical malpractice case filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, in which the court found the plaintiff’s expert failed to establish the standard of care but granted the plaintiff leave to conduct additional discovery. If you live in Maryland and were recently hurt by inadequate medical care, it is in your best interest to retain a  skilled Maryland medical malpractice attorney to help you pursue damages.

The Plaintiff’s Harm

It is reported that the plaintiff’s foot was scraped by a pebble during a fitness competition. A few days later, he experienced swelling and stiffness in his leg that made it difficult for him to walk. The same day, he called the defendant medical center, which is a facility funded by the federal government, to report an infection in his tooth and pain and swelling in his jaw. He then presented to the defendant medical center with complaints of swelling and pain in his leg.

Allegedly, the attending doctor examined the plaintiff’s tooth and only briefly examined his foot. Approximately two weeks later, he was diagnosed with cellulitis and necrotizing fasciitis in his leg, for which he had to undergo surgery. The plaintiff then filed a medical negligence claim against the defendant under the Federal Tort Claims Act, arguing that the defendant’s failure to provide a proper diagnosis caused permanent harm. Following discovery, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff’s expert failed to establish the standard of care, and his testimony should be precluded, and therefore the plaintiff could not recover on his claims.

Establishing the Standard of Care in Medical Malpractice Cases

Pursuant to the law of the District of Columbia, in a medical malpractice case predicated on negligence, the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing the standard of care that applies to the defendant, a departure from that standard by the defendant, and a causal relationship between the deviation and the plaintiff’s harm. Further, testimony from an expert is required to prove each of the necessary elements, including causation.

The court explained that in the District of Columbia, the standard of care that applies to a defendant in a medical malpractice case is a national standard rather than a local custom. Thus, the expert testifying on behalf of the plaintiff must establish that the relevant standard of care is adhered to on a national level by referring to publications, presentation of relevant data, or discussions with practitioners outside of the district. In the subject case, the court noted that the plaintiff’s expert merely relied on his own experience practicing in the District of Columbia. Thus, the court found that the expert’s testimony was inadequate. The court declined to grant summary judgment in favor of the defendant, however, but granted the plaintiff leave to conduct additional discovery.

Meet with an Experienced Maryland Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you suffered harm due to the negligence of a physician you should meet with an attorney to discuss your right to pursue damages. The experienced Maryland medical malpractice attorneys of Arfaa Law Group can gather the facts and evidence needed to help you present compelling arguments in favor of your recovery of compensation. We can be contacted through our form online or by calling (410) 889-1850 to set up a meeting.

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