Tuesday, October 20, 2009
The Maryland Court of Appeals has held that a proffered expert witness in a medical malpractice case was properly prevented from testifying at trial "when the expert devoted annually more than 20 percent of his professional activities to activities that directly involved testimony in personal injury claims."
The proposed witnessed had been educated in France and had practiced interventional neuroradiology (the area of practice at issue) for 45 years prior to his retirement in 2001. He had performed the medical procedure over 30 times, although the procedure is now done with a stint that the witness had never used. He testified that he is retained in 3-4 cases a year and devotes approximately 50 hours a year to expert witnessing. His only income is his expert fees and his pension. He testified that he devotes over 500 hours to professional activities such as reading journals, attending conferences, observing procedures and the like.
The court interpreted the so-called Twenty Percent Rule (which derives from a Maryland statute) to conclude (contrary to the Court of Special Appeals) that the witness may not testify. Activities are considered to be "professional" when the function "contributes to or advances the profession to which the individual belongs or involves...active participation in that profession." Excluded are activities "undertaken for personal or leisurely reasons." Reading, attending and observing does not count.
The rule "allows a qualified doctor to continue to utilize his or her expertise, but prevents him or her from launching a second career as purely an expert witness. The primary professional activities (at least 80 percent) must still be in the medical profession that he or she is professing." (Mike Frisch)