The March 12, 2013 issue of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery questions whether plaintiff’s medical malpractice expert witnesses are qualified.


Authors Eloy, Svider, et al conducted the following research:


Methods The Westlaw legal database (Thomson Reuters, New York, New York) was searched for otolaryngologist expert witness testimony. Length of experience, practice setting, and subspecialty training information were obtained from hospital, practice, departmental, and state licensing board sites. Scholarly impact was assessed using calculation of the h-index from the Scopus database.


Their results and conclusions should give pause to all medical expert witnesses in medical malpractice cases.


Results Plaintiff expert witnesses had significantly less experience than those testifying for defendants (31.8 vs 35.4 years, P = .047) and lower scholarly impact (h = 6.3 vs 10, P = .045). A significantly higher proportion of defendant witnesses were in academic practice (49.3% vs 31.7%, P = .042). No differences were detected in postresidency fellowship training patterns.

Conclusion Upon comparison of otolaryngologist expert witnesses, practitioners testifying on behalf of plaintiffs had statistically fewer years of experience, had a lower scholarly impact, and were less likely to work in an academic setting. Otolaryngologists who repeatedly served as expert witnesses were more likely to be testifying on behalf of plaintiffs than defendants. Professional societies need to frequently update guidelines on expert witness testimony and address the ethical obligations of practitioners.


NOTE: Plaintiff medical malpractice expert witnesses continue to be singled out for additional scrutiny, intimidation, and professional discipline.