Troubles with layperson standard
Applying dual stands of care in medical malpractice cases is unworkable, untenable and unwise, the Litigation Center and others say in their brief.
“Informing juries that they must apply only the ‘competent professional’ standard of care prevents lay juries from judging the conduct of specialized professionals with a benchmark that vaults the hypothetical layperson’s ‘reasonable’ judgement over that of the expert’s,” the brief states. “Letting juries nullify professional standards would upend the basic premise that professional malpractice claims involve specialized knowledge and duties that laypeople cannot assess based on their common knowledge.”
That specialized knowledge is especially necessary in medical liability cases because medical procedures are not common knowledge, the brief notes, and juries must rely on expert testimony to determine whether there is unskilled or negligent treatment.
The Court of Special Appeals touched on that in their earlier ruling saying that medical liability cases are usually more complex than general negligence claims and “to ask the jury to go beyond professional standards to determine whether it was reasonable to follow a particular medical court of treatment would in effect ask for the jury’s medical judgment—something that no member of the jury is likely to be capable of giving” without the aid of expert medical testimony.
The competent professional standard is a well-established part of case law and statutes in Maryland and more than a dozen states.
Blowing up the settled rules would open all professionals up to a layperson’s standard in court, subject physicians to two different standards of care, and potentially raise the number of meritless lawsuits. That figure is already high, with 68 percent of medical liability claims closed in 2015 having been dropped, dismissed or withdrawn. Among the 7 percent of claims that were decided by a trial verdict, 88 percent of verdicts were for the defense, according to a 2018 AMA report.