Maryland Court Discusses Sufficiency of Expert Opinions in Dental Malpractice Cases

In Maryland, dental malpractice claims, like other allegations of medical malpractice, must typically be proven via expert testimony. Thus, if a court deems a plaintiff’s expert testimony inadmissible, it will likely result in a ruling in favor of the defendant. If an expert report is sufficient under the evidentiary standards, however, it should not be deemed inadmissible, even if the expert did not review the plaintiff’s treating records prior to issuing the report, as explained in a recent ruling issued by a Maryland appellate court in a dental malpractice case. If you were hurt by incompetent dental care, it is smart to speak to a Maryland dental malpractice lawyer about your options for seeking compensation.

The Plaintiff’s Harm

It is reported that the defendant performed surgical removal of the plaintiff’s wisdom teeth. Following the procedure, the plaintiff experienced a permanent loss of feeling in her tongue. As such, she filed a dental malpractice lawsuit against the defendant, alleging he negligently severed her lingual nerves during the surgery. The defendant moved for summary judgment, and the court granted the motion, dismissing the plaintiff’s claims. The plaintiff then appealed.

Sufficiency of Expert Opinions in Dental Malpractice Cases

In granting the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, the trial court relied in part on the defendant’s assertion that the plaintiff’s expert opinion was unreliable because he did not review the medical records from her treating providers. The appellate court explained that juries could not infer medical negligence without testimony from experts, as issues relating to the standard of care and medical causation are beyond the understanding of the average layperson.

Thus, expert testimony is necessary to establish the standard of care and explain how the defendant breached the standard. The rule governing the admission of expert testimony provides that, in evaluating whether an expert opinion should be admitted, a court must determine whether the expert is qualified by skill, training, knowledge, or experience, whether the testimony is appropriate on the particular subject, and whether there is a sufficient factual basis to support the opinion.

The appellate court explained that a sufficient factual basis could arise from numerous sources, including the expert’s first-hand knowledge, testimony from other parties, and facts the expert garnered via hypothetical questions. In the subject case, the plaintiff’s expert determined her lingual nerves were severed via his examination of her, which included tests he administered. While it was undisputed that he did not examine her prior medical records, the court found he was not required to do so under Maryland law in order for his opinion to be admissible. Rather, the appellate court found that his failure to consider relevant pieces of data spoke to the credibility of his opinion rather than whether it was admissible. Thus, the appellate court reversed the trial court ruling.

Meet with an Experienced Maryland Attorney

An improperly performed oral surgery can cause permanent damages, and dentists that carelessly harm their patients should be held accountable. If you suffered injuries due to dental malpractice, it is advisable to meet with an attorney to discuss your potential claims as soon as possible. The experienced Baltimore lawyers of Arfaa Law Group can advise you of your rights and aid you in pursuing the maximum damages recoverable under the law. We can be reached through our online form or at (410) 889-1850 to set up a conference.



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