Thursday, August 03, 2006

Michigan Supreme Court Issues Sharply Divided Opinion on Competency Requirements for MedMal Experts

Like a number of other states, Michigan has a statute imposing specific competency requirements on experts who opine on the standard of care in medical malpractice cases. The Michigan statute calls for the expert to be board-certified in the defendant physician's specialty (if the defendant himself is board-certified in it), and also (in general) to have devoted a majority of the expert's clinical practice to that specialty during the year immediately preceding the date of the alleged malpractice.

What happens, though, if the defendant physician is certified and/or practices in more than one specialty? How is it determined which specialty or specialties are relevant to the competency determination?

On Monday, the Michigan Supreme Court issued a decision on that subject. The court was so badly splintered that the justices couldn't even agree on which opinion spoke for the majority and which opinion represented the dissent. Some measure of chaos will surely now ensue. See Woodard v. Custer, No. 124994 (Mich. July 31, 2006).


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Fed. R. Evid. 702: If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if (1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.