The Expert Witness Must Practice over 50% of Time in the Same Specialty as the Defendant Physician
Since 1993, the state of Michigan has unequivocally required expert witnesses to practice in the same specialty as the defendant physician; be board-certified in the same specialty as the defendant; and devote the majority of their professional time to that specialty in the year before the alleged malpractice occurred. The Michigan Supreme Court has said that experts must pass the “one most relevant specialty test”, meaning that experts must practice in the specialty more than 50% of the time in the year before the alleged malpractice.
In a recent case, the defendant physician was practicing facial plastic and reconstructive surgery at the time of the alleged malpractice. The plaintiff’s expert, however, devoted a mere 10% of his professional time to that discipline. The remaining time was spent practicing otolaryngology. The trial court properly interpreted the statute and rejected plaintiff’s expert witness and the appellate court agreed.
Having an expert witness who has the same credentials as the plaintiff physician and recent medical practice prevents the ‘expert for hire’ from compromising the integrity of the judicial process. Judges and juries rely upon expert testimony to determine if the alleged malpractice took place. ‘Experts’ who lack current knowledge of the standards of care for the discipline cannot opine in their testimony with a reliable degree of accuracy to aid the judges and juries in their determinations.
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