Characteristics of Vascular Surgeons as Expert Witnesses in Malpractice Litigation
John Phair, M.D.1, Eric B. Trestman, M.D.1, Edvard Skripochnik, M.D.2, Evan C. Lipsitz, M.D.1, Larry A. Scher, M.D.1.
1Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, NY, USA, 2Stony Brook University Medical Center, Stony Brook, NY, USA.
To analyze the characteristics and role of vascular surgeons as expert witnesses in malpractice claims in the United States legal system.
The WESTLAW database was reviewed from 1999 through 2015. Search terms “vascular” and “surgeon” were used. Individual case data including the defendant, plaintiff, allegation, verdict and judgment was compiled. Demographic data such as age, practice duration, scholarly impact (h-index) and practice setting of expert witnesses were reviewed from online faculty websites, state licensing boards, and Scopus database.
A total of 785 cases were identified for review. Three-hundred seventy-seven of these cases were identified where a vascular surgeon was either a plaintiff or defense expert witness. A vascular surgeon was the defense expert in 130 (34.5%), plaintiff expert in 117 (31.0%), both plaintiff and defense in 99 (26.2%), and had an unspecified role in 30 (7.9%). In these cases, 283 individual expert witnesses were identified. Vascular surgeon experts who testified 4 or more times were more likely to testify for the plaintiff (43.1% vs 22.2%, p = <.05). There was no significant difference in mean years of practice (23.5 vs 24.2, p = .1) for plaintiff experts and defense experts. However, plaintiff experts were more likely to be in non-academic practice (76% vs. 54%, p = <.05) and have lower scholarly impact (h-index 15.2 vs. 18.5, p = < .05).
A small number of individual vascular surgeons are more frequently represented as experts in all cases and more so as plaintiff witnesses. Moreover, while plaintiff witnesses have similar years of experience and age, they are less likely to work in an academic setting and have an overall lower scholarly impact compared to defense witnesses. While national organizations, such as the American College of Surgeons, provide recommendations defining an expert witness, individual states may lack clear guidelines. Improved consistency in expert credentialing may lead to more fair and ethical trial representation.
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