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Maryland’s Top Court to Decide Whether Physicians Should be Held to “Reasonable Person” Standard

When you seek medical attention of any kind, you expect to receive competent care. If you or someone close to you has been injured due to a medical professional’s negligence, you may be able to recover compensation through a medical malpractice claim. At Arfaa Law Group, our skilled Baltimore medical malpractice attorneys understand this area of law and can help you explore your legal rights and options.

Medical malpractice laws are always changing, and it is imperative for your attorney to be aware of legal developments that may affect your case. Consider the following. A pending decision by Maryland’s highest court could change the standard that jurors will be instructed to use in assessing these cases.

For over a century, negligence in Maryland medical malpractice cases has been guided by the “reasonably competent” physician standard of care – a standard of which juries and judges are informed through expert testimony. However, in the case of Armacost v. Davis, a Baltimore County Court judge permitted jurors to also consider what a layperson would deem reasonable under the circumstances.

The facts of the case are as follows. After the patient went through surgery, he developed an abscess and bacterial infection when an incision did not heal properly. The patient then sued his neurosurgeon for medical malpractice, alleging that the doctor should have known that the procedure was not appropriate for this particular patient. At this point, the judge gave the aforementioned jury instructions. When the defense asked the jury to have the standard of care measured solely based on the expectations for a reasonably competent neurosurgeon, the judge refused.

The jury ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. The defendants appealed.

One of the central issues in the appeal was whether, in a medical malpractice case, the trial court was wrong to give jury instructions on negligence framed in terms of the conduct of a reasonable person. The appeals court agreed with the defendants that the jury was not properly instructed and ordered another trial.

Those opposing the modified standard believe that changing the long-established standard would open the door to more frivolous lawsuits. In addition, the uniquely complex issues that are often at play in medical malpractice cases are not a matter of everyday knowledge. As a result, it may be vital for jurors to hear from medical expert witnesses who can provide them with the information they need to make an informed determination about negligence. Lastly, the competent medical professional standard is a well-established part of case law and statutes both in Maryland and across the United States.

If you or a loved one has been harmed due to a medical professional’s negligence, you may be able to recover damages through a Maryland medical malpractice claim. At Arfaa Law Group, our skilled Baltimore medical malpractice attorneys are committed to helping victims of malpractice obtain a fair resolution in their case – whether it is through a settlement or at trial. For more information about your rights and options, call us at 410-889-1850 or contact us online.

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