Selecting an expert in any negligence case is an important decision, but even more so in a medical malpractice case. For starters, in a medical malpractice case, an expert must be retained before the case is even filed. And, if you select the wrong expert because you’re pressed for time or lacking resources (or any other reason), it will end the case before it even begins.
In Florida, before a plaintiff can file a medical malpractice case, she must comply with various requirements under Chapter 766, Florida Statutes. Perhaps the most important requirement is corroborating that there are reasonable grounds to initiate the case through a “verified written medical expert opinion,” commonly referred to as a “corroborating affidavit.” The affidavit must not only include the requisite information, it must also be signed by an appropriate expert. If the affidavit is deficient in either respect, the penalties are severe – your client’s case will be dismissed, and you will be liable for attorney’s fees and costs.
So who is an appropriate expert for your client’s medical malpractice case? Surely, a physician who has the knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education to enable him to testify to the applicable standard of medical care and treatment should qualify as an appropriate expert. Right? Not necessarily, based on these cautionary tales:
- In a case where the plaintiff claimed that the surgery performed on her broken toe was unnecessary, the court found that the affidavit, signed by a board-certified podiatrist whose primary focus was foot and ankle surgery, didn’t comply with the statute and dismissed her case.
- In a case where the plaintiff claimed that the surgery on his wrist was negligently performed, the court found that the affidavit, signed by a board-certified plastic surgeon who performed the same wrist surgery as part of his practice, didn’t comply with the statute and dismissed his case.
- In a case where the plaintiff claimed that the surgery on her hip was negligently performed, the court found that the affidavits, signed by an emergency room physician, a radiologist, and a nurse, didn’t comply with the statute and dismissed her case.
The reason for the noncompliance of each of these affidavits is the same: the plaintiff’s expert didn’t have the same specialty as the defendant physician (in each case, orthopedic surgery).
The importance of complying with “same specialty” requirement has been clear for some time in Florida. Why, then, did these plaintiffs choose experts who didn’t specialize in orthopedic surgery? Perhaps their attorneys didn’t have the necessary time or resources to search for, find, and retain an orthopedic surgeon; supply him with the requisite information to adequately formulate an opinion; and obtain from him an affidavit that otherwise complied with the statutory requirements.
That’s where Global Litigation Consultants comes in. If you’re in need of an appropriate expert to sign a corroborating affidavit to initiate a medical malpractice case, contact us. We have the time and resources that you may be lacking, and we understand the importance of choosing the right expert for your clients’ cases.