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Admissibility of expert testimony in med mal cases an important issue

In medical malpractice cases, building a strong defense requires not only having the law on one’s side, but also presenting enough evidence to back up one’s legal argument. While medical malpractice plaintiffs have the burden of presenting relevant and reliable evidence to support each element of a medical malpractice claim, defendants’ focus is to present sufficient evidence to show that the plaintiff doesn’t meet the legal requirements for establishing the defendant’s liability.

One particularly important issue in establishing medical malpractice liability is the standard of care, which is the legal duty a physician is required to meet in a given set of circumstances. The legal duty can vary depending on jurisdiction, and typically requires considering the relevant medical specialty of the accused physician. Disputes regarding the standard of care usually have to be resolved by the consideration of expert testimony. 

Because of the importance of expert testimony in medical malpractice litigation, it is important for medical malpractice defendants to secure expert witnesses who can provide reliable testimony on the proper standard of care in their case. Different states have different rules when it comes to the admissibility of expert witness testimony, but federal courts and most states use a uniform rule known as the Daubert standard. The Daubert standard involves examining a given set of factors, including whether the science behind the asserted standard of care has been tested, subjected to peer review and publication, and accepted within a relevant scientific community.

The admissibility rule that has been used in Florida is the Frye standard, which asks whether the expert’s testimony on the standard of care is generally accepted in a particular medical community. Daubert is a stricter standard, and often requires courts to hold extensive pre-trial conferences to determine whether the testimony is fit to present to a jury.

In a future post, we’ll look at a recent Florida court case dealing with these two standards and how medical malpractice defendants in Florida can navigate the issue with the help of experienced legal counsel

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