Maine Personal Injury Plaintiffs Must Ensure They Follow All Court Rules, or Risk the Exclusion of Evidence

Earlier this month, the federal appellate court overseeing Maine district courts issued an opinion in a medical malpractice case. The opinion illustrates the court’s power to exclude evidence if a party fails to comply with the court’s orders. The case raises an important issue for Maine personal injury litigants in that it emphasizes the importance of being familiar with the state’s procedural requirements.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was seriously injured after she underwent surgery at the defendant hospital. A few years after the surgery, the plaintiff filed a medical malpractice claim against the hospital and several doctors. Early on in the process, the court entered a scheduling order to outline several of the relevant deadlines. The scheduling order provided that the plaintiff must disclose the names of her expert witnesses and the contents of their reports by May 20, 2016. The scheduling order also stated that discovery was to close by November 15, 2016.

The plaintiff timely named one expert witness. At some point after the May 20 deadline, the plaintiff filed a motion to withdraw her case against one of the doctors, claiming that she did not have a case against that doctor. The court granted the plaintiff’s motion. The remaining defendants filed a motion asking the court to exclude the plaintiff’s named expert witness. While that motion was pending, the plaintiff filed a motion to re-join the dismissed doctor. The plaintiff noted that a report from another expert indicated that the dismissed doctor might have been responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries.

The court first granted the defense motion to exclude the plaintiff’s timely named expert. The court also denied the plaintiff’s motion to add the previously dismissed defendant and granted the defendants’ motion to preclude the new expert’s report because it was not timely. As a result of the court’s decisions, both of the plaintiff’s experts were not allowed to testify and, because of this, the court reasoned she could not prove her case. The court dismissed the plaintiff’s claims against all defendants.

The plaintiff appealed the court’s ruling, arguing that the court’s decision was excessively harsh. The appellate court explained that when a party is seeking exclusion of evidence based on a violation of a court order, courts should consider the “history of the litigation, the proponent’s need for the challenged evidence, the justification (if any) for the late disclosure, and the opponent’s ability to overcome its adverse effects.” Reviewing each of these factors, the court determined that the lower court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the plaintiff’s expert.

Have You Been the Victim of Medical Malpractice in Maine?

If you suffered serious injury as a result of the negligence of a medical professional, you may be entitled to compensation through a Maine medical malpractice lawsuit. At Peter Thompson & Associates, we represent clients in all types of Maine personal injury cases, including motor vehicle collisions, slip and fall accidents, and wrongful death claims. To learn more about how we can help you pursue a claim for compensation, call 1-800-804-2004 to schedule a free consultation today.