The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland clarified in a recent case the pleading requirements necessary for the inclusion of an expert opinion in a medical malpractice case.
In a medical malpractice suit in Maryland, a plaintiff must file documentation from a medical expert who practices in a field similar to that of the defendant physician. This documentation must include two parts:
A Certificate of Qualified Expert
According to the Maryland Health Care Malpractice Claims Act, this documentation must state:
- That there was a departure from the standard of care
- That this departure from the standard of care was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s alleged injury
- The name of the professional who breached the standard of care
A Report from the Qualified Expert
The Maryland Health Care Malpractice Claims act does not state what this "report" should contain. It does state that the report needs to be attached to the certificate. Previous appellate court decisions have determined that the necessary contents of the report must be:
- A statement from the attesting expert of the applicable standard of care
- A statement as to how the defendant did not meet the standard of care.
In the case in question, the circuit court determined that while the expert’s "report" met the requirements, the "certificate" did not meet the requirements for admission. The circuit court dismissed the plaintiff’s claim as a result.
The plaintiff appealed, and the appellate court examined the documentation. The appellate court found that even if the certificate did not contain the necessary information for admission, that because this information was present on the report, that collectively the report and the certificate satisfied the requirements listed above. Thus the appellate court ruled that the circuit court had erred in its refusal to allow the admission of the certificate, and its resultant dismissal of the plaintiff’s claim.