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Maryland Court Rules Expert Testimony is Needed to Prove Medical Negligence of a Non-Party Doctor

In Maryland, a party alleging a doctor committed medical malpractice generally must produce proof of the allegedly tortious acts by way of an expert report. In some instances, though, when the act committed by a doctor is so obviously egregious, expert testimony is not required. Recently, a Maryland court addressed the unique issue of whether an expert opinion is needed to establish medical malpractice of a physician that is not named as a party when the defendant doctor alleges that the non-party physician is liable for the plaintiff’s harm. If you were hurt by the negligent acts of your care provider, it is important to understand what evidence you must produce to prove liability. Therefore, you should consult a knowledgeable Maryland medical malpractice attorney to discuss your case as soon as possible.

Factual History

Allegedly, the plaintiff was diagnosed with renal cancer in 2011. While a cancerous tumor was removed from his kidney by the defendant urologist, a nearby lymph node that also was cancerous was not removed. The plaintiff then was treated by the defendant oncologist from 2011 through 2015, who also did not remove the cancerous node but provided chemotherapy, which shrunk the node. The plaintiff’s CT scans were regularly reviewed by the two defendant radiologists throughout the course of his treatment. The defendant radiologists did not report any lymphadenopathy but noted the scans lacked contrast, which made them difficult to evaluate.

It is reported that the plaintiff was ultimately advised that the node was cancerous and could not be removed. He filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendants, but prior to trial dismissed the claims as to the defendant urologist and oncologist. At trial, the defendant radiologists argued that the defendant urologist and oncologist were ultimately to blame for the plaintiff’s harm, but did not provide any expert testimony supporting their assertions. The jury ultimately determined that the dismissed defendants were liable, after which the plaintiff moved for a new trial. His motion was denied, and he appealed. The court of appeals reversed the trial court ruling, after which the defendants appealed.

Evidence Needed to Establish Medical Negligence of a Non-Party

The sole issue the court addressed on appeal was whether, in a medical malpractice case, if a doctor defends a claim by arguing that the negligence of a non-party physician caused the plaintiff’s harm, the doctor must produce expert testimony to support its argument. The appellate court stated that, pursuant to Maryland law, a defendant in a medical malpractice case might generally produce evidence of the medical negligence of a non-party defendant as proof that the defendant was not negligent, or did not cause the plaintiff’s harm.

Such evidence may also be produced to demonstrate that the non-party proximately caused the plaintiff’s damages. In cases in which the question of whether a non-party’s medical negligence caused the plaintiff’s harm is submitted to the jury, though, the defendant must provide expert testimony that establishes such negligence within a reasonable degree of medical certainty. As the defendants failed to produce any expert testimony in support of their defense of non-party negligence, the appellate court found that the trial court improperly submitted the issue to the jury, and affirmed the court of appeals ruling.

Meet with an Experienced Maryland Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you sustained an injury or illness because of the incompetence of a health care provider, you may be owed damages and should meet with an attorney to discuss your rights. The experienced  Maryland medical malpractice attorneys of Arfaa Law Group are proficient at helping people harmed by negligent doctors recover damages, and if you engage our services, we will advocate aggressively in your favor. We can be reached through the form online or at (410) 889-1850 to set up a conference.

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