Maryland Court Discusses Habit Evidence in Medical Malpractice Cases

In a Maryland medical malpractice case, the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the defendant engaged in behavior that constitutes a deviation from the standard of care and that such behavior caused the plaintiff’s harm. In defense of such claims, the defendant may seek to introduce habit evidence, which essentially demonstrates that they typically follow a certain routine when treating patients and most likely did not depart from that routine on the date in question. Recently, a Maryland court discussed the admissibility of habit evidence in a medical malpractice case in which the jury ultimately found in favor of the defendant. If you lost a loved one due to the negligence of a healthcare provider, you have the right to seek compensation, and it is advisable to meet with a Maryland medical malpractice attorney at your earliest convenience.

Factual and Procedural History

It is reported that the decedent slipped and fell on a wet floor at work, after which she was taken to the defendant’s hospital for examination. A nurse documented her injuries, and the defendant doctor examined her, diagnosing knee and hip contusions. Over the next few weeks, the decedent’s condition worsened, and she consulted other doctors, eventually being diagnosed with an acute compression fracture of the L3 vertebrae with nerve root compression. She underwent spinal fusion surgery but later suffered an anoxic brain injury, leaving her in a persistent vegetative state until her death.

Allegedly, the decedent’s guardian filed a medical malpractice claim against the defendants. Following a trial, the jury found in favor of the defendant doctor, determining that she was not negligent in her care and treatment of the decedent. The guardian filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, alternatively, a new trial based on the trial court’s admission of “habit” testimony regarding the defendant doctor’s examination practices. The motion was denied without a hearing. The guardian appealed.

Habit Evidence in Maryland Medical Malpractice Cases

On appeal, the guardian argues that the trial court erred in allowing the defendant doctor to testify about her habit of examining patients on a backboard on the grounds claims that this testimony did not meet the requirements of Rule 5–406, which deals with the admissibility of habit evidence. Further, the guardian argued that the defendant doctor’s testimony lacked sufficient regularity and did not meet the definition of “habitual response,” and was not supported or corroborated by additional evidence.

The court disagreed and found that the defendant doctor’s testimony about her routine practice of examining patients on a backboard qualifies as admissible habit evidence under Rule 5–406. Furthermore, the court finds that corroboration is not required for habit evidence and that the probative value of the testimony outweighs any potential prejudice or confusion. Thus, it affirmed the trial court ruling.

Speak to a Seasoned Maryland Attorney

Medical malpractice can cause a variety of injuries and, in some instances, can tragically lead to fatal harm. If you lost a loved one due to a doctor’s negligence, you may be owed damages, and you should speak to an attorney about your rights. The seasoned Maryland lawyers of Arfaa Law Group can assess the facts of your case and aid you in pursuing the full amount of damages recoverable under the law. You can contact us via our online form or by calling us at (410) 889-1850 to set up a meeting.

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