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Maryland Court Discusses Expert Qualifications in Medical Malpractice Cases

In the majority of medical malpractice cases pursued in Maryland, both the plaintiff and the defendant will need to retain one or more experts to opine as to whether the expert deviated from the standard of care. If either party’s expert is not qualified, however, the party may be precluded from presenting the expert’s testimony at trial. Recently, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland analyzed the limitations of an expert’s qualification to opine on treatment related to his or her specialty in a medical malpractice case. If you suffered harm because of negligent medical care, it is wise to speak with a skillful Maryland medical malpractice attorney to discuss what evidence you may need to prove liability for your harm.

Factual Background of the Case

Reportedly, the plaintiff’s decedent underwent a surgical repair of an aortic aneurysm and a bypass of the right coronary artery. She went to a rehabilitation facility for one month following her surgery, after which she was discharged home. A few weeks later, she underwent an evaluation for blood pressure and other health issues with a certified nurse practitioner at a cardiology practice. During the appointment, the plaintiff’s decedent reported she was experiencing vomiting, weight loss, and nausea. Two days later, however, she was evaluated by the doctor who performed her surgery, who stated that she was not experiencing any complications.

It is alleged that at a subsequent follow-up with a second cardiologist, she again reported vomiting and other issues. The second cardiologist discontinued three of the plaintiff’s decedent’s medications due to her ongoing symptoms. She subsequently developed a pericardial effusion and congestive heart failure. She died shortly after that from sepsis of an unknown origin. Before her death, it was suspected that the plaintiff’s decedent was suffering from mesenteric ischemia, but an autopsy did not reveal any evidence of the condition.

Procedural History

The plaintiff filed a malpractice lawsuit against the second cardiologist for his failure to diagnose and treat the plaintiff’s decedent’s alleged mesenteric ischemia. A certificate of qualified expert accompanied the lawsuit. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the plaintiff’s expert did not meet the statutory requirements. The plaintiff argued that although his expert practiced in a different specialty, it was a related specialty as permitted under the statute. The court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

Expert Qualifications Under CJP § 3-2-1-02(c)

Expert qualifications in a professional malpractice claim are set forth by Maryland law, at CJP § 3-2-1-02(c). Specifically, the law states that an expert must have taught medicine or have clinical experience in the same specialty as the defendant, or a related field of health care. Whether an expert in a medical malpractice case is qualified is a determination for the court.

In the subject case, the court noted that it is established law in Maryland that an expert in a malpractice case does not have to be the same kind of practitioner as the defendant, but must practice in a related field. The court went on to say that, in analyzing the meaning of the word “related,” that a specialty is related if there is an overlap between the specialties and the treatment or procedures rendered in each specialty, so as to infer an overlap of knowledge between the practitioners in each specialty. Here, the court was called upon to determine whether the plaintiff’s expert, a cardio-thoracic surgeon, was qualified to opine on the standard of care imposed on the defendant, a cardiologist. The court ultimately found that there was not a sufficient overlap of treatment in the fields. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court’s order.

Consult a Knowledgeable Maryland Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you were harmed due to insufficient treatment provided by a doctor, it is in your best interest to consult a knowledgeable Maryland medical malpractice attorney to discuss what claims you may be able to pursue. The attorneys of Arfaa Law Group are adept at handling medical malpractice cases in the Maryland courts and will aggressively advocate on your behalf. We can be reached through our form online or at (410) 889-1850 to set up a free and confidential consultation.