Maryland Court Addresses Expert Witness Issue in Medical Malpractice Case

Under Maryland law, every medical malpractice case requires testimony from an expert witness. In fact, Rule 5-702 denotes that expert testimony may be admitted if the court decides that the testimony will help the trier of fact (either the judge or jury) understand the evidence or determine a fact at issue in the case. The expert witness in a medical malpractice case is typically a professional in the same specialty as the defendant. For example, if the defendant is an obstetrician, the expert witness will likely be an obstetrician.

In a recent case, a Maryland appeals court considered the issue of expert witnesses. In that case, the plaintiff brought a medical malpractice claim against her doctor for failing to obtain informed consent. Informed consent is the process through which a medical professional discloses appropriate information to a patient so that the patient knows the material risks and benefits associated with a particular course of treatment and can make an informed decision about whether or not to proceed.

In the case at hand, the defendant was the plaintiff’s obstetrician throughout two of her pregnancies in the early 2000s. The plaintiff’s first child was a healthy newborn with no sign of harm to the newborn’s shoulder. However, the child’s chart revealed conflicting information about whether the child had suffered shoulder dystocia. A past shoulder dystocia can increase the likelihood of dystocia in the next child, but this prospect was not taken into account for the plaintiff’s second pregnancy. During the second birth, the plaintiff’s baby suffered shoulder dystocia, which led to a serious and permanent birth injury.

Prior to trial, two of the plaintiff’s expert witnesses could not testify because of different reasons. The plaintiff’s request to replace those experts with a new expert witness was rejected. The plaintiff then made an unsuccessful attempt to compel the defendant’s witness to testify in her case. During trial, the plaintiff discarded her medical malpractice claim and moved forward on the ground of a lack of informed consent. The plaintiff called the defendant as an adverse witness, even though the defendant was not ever a formal expert in the matter. The defendant filed a motion for judgment, arguing that the plaintiff had not presented expert testimony that would support her claim. The trial court agreed with the defendants and granted the motion.

The case was appealed. At that time, the court explained that the fact that the plaintiff had failed to list the defendant’s expert witness in her pretrial documents alone was sufficient for the court to quell the plaintiff’s motion to compel the defendant’s witness to testify. Additionally, the defendant was not properly qualified as an expert witness. The plaintiff also did not sufficiently show that shoulder dystocia had taken place in the first delivery, thereby releasing the defendant of the obligation to advise the plaintiff of any substantial risks that may be present during the second delivery. For these reasons, the appeals court affirmed and ruled for the defendant.

If you or someone close to you has been harmed due to the negligence of a medical professional, we can help. At Arfaa Law Group, our medical malpractice lawyers have the skill, experience, and determination to handle your case. To discuss your case in more detail, call us at 410-889-1850 or reach us through our website.

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