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Virginia Courts Discuss Standard for Admitting Evidence of an Expert’s Prior Citations

Medical malpractice cases often hinge on the persuasiveness and credibility of each party’s expert. Thus, it is not uncommon for either party to attempt to discredit an expert, either by showing that the expert lacks the appropriate credentials to set forth an opinion or that the expert deviated from the applicable standard of care on a prior occasion. In a recent case arising out of Virginia, an appellate court discussed the standard for determining when potentially prejudicial evidence regarding an expert is admissible in a medical malpractice case. If you sustained injuries due to incompetent medical care, it is prudent to meet with an attorney to discuss what damages you may be owed.  At Arfaa Law Group, our Maryland medical malpractice attorneys are skilled at helping injured parties seek recourse in lawsuits in Maryland and Virginia, and other states as well.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff underwent a blepharoplasty that was performed by the defendant. The plaintiff alleged the surgery was negligently performed, resulting in an injury to her right levator muscle, which rendered her functionally blind. Prior to trial, the defendant filed a motion to preclude the admission of evidence regarding disciplinary proceedings against his expert witness. The court denied the motion, and a jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, awarding her $800,000.00. The defendant appealed, arguing, in part, that the court erred in denying his motion.

Admissibility of Evidence Regarding an Expert’s Background

Under Virginia law, trial courts have a responsibility to weigh the competing considerations of the probative value and prejudicial nature of proposed evidence, in determining whether the evidence should be admitted. Further, the law provides that evidence is relevant if it logically tends to prove an issue in the case, and a trial court must decide whether evidence is relevant. Trial courts have the discretion to decide whether evidence is admissible, and the decision will not be disturbed absent a mistake of law.

In the subject case, the court found that the trial court acted within its discretion in admitting questions and testimony regarding the defendant’s expert witness’s prior citations issued by the board of medicine for violating the law and health regulations while he was engaged in the practice of medicine. Specifically, the appellate court noted that the expert’s opinions were based upon the standard of care a reasonably prudent surgeon in Virginia would comply with, which included the opinion that all doctors practicing under the standard should comply with state laws regarding the practice of medicine. Thus, the court found that the issue of whether the expert adhered to the standard of care himself was relevant regarding the issue of the weight the jury gave his opinions.

Speak with a Trusted Medical Malpractice Attorney

While all surgery presents some degree of risk, when a surgical procedure is performed inappropriately, it can cause permanent harm. If you suffered harm because of a negligent healthcare provider, it is in your best interest to speak with a medical malpractice attorney regarding what claims you may be able to pursue. The trusted attorneys of Arfaa Law Group are adept at helping injured parties in the pursuit of compensation in the Virginia and Maryland courts, and we will fight vigorously to help you seek a successful result. You can contact us through our form online or at (410) 889-1850 to schedule a confidential and free meeting.

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