Brief Fact Summary. In Hall’s (Plaintiff) malpractice action, doctors who were not local were not permitted to give expert opinions due to their lack of familiarity with local medical standards.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. National standards should be used to judge a doctor’s duty of care to a patient, rather than local standards.
Malpractice liability may result either through lack of skill or neglect to apply it, if possessed.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Should national standards be used to judge a doctor’s duty of care to a patient, rather than local standards?
Held. (Robertson, J.)Â Yes.Â National standards should be used to judge a doctor’s duty of care to a patient, rather than local standards.Â Courts have followed the “locality rule” for years in cases of medical malpractice.Â This rule holds that the standard of care a patient is owed by a physician would be judged by referring to local standards.Â This rule, however, is now obsolete.Â Medical practice has become more “nationalized” in scope.Â Across the country, standards for medical school are mostly the same.Â Doctors are much more mobile than in the past.Â There is nationwide access to Medical education and literature.Â Beyond that, regardless of where the patient is located geographically, the needs of the patient are mostly the same for any particular medical condition.Â These are the reasons why a doctor’s standard of care should be measured by local standards only in instances where an area has greater resources than others.Â Except in those instances, the standard of care a doctor owes to a patient should be judged by the medical community on a nationwide basis.Â [Here, the testimony of Drs. Hoerr and Sachs was improperly excluded.]Â Reversed and remanded.
Discussion. In this case, the court’s decision did not constitute a complete abrogation of the locality rule.Â While expert witnesses were no longer required to be “local,” the court did recognize that some localities simply do not have the facilities as others.Â Because of this, a nonlocal expert would have to be aware of the facilities at a doctor’s disposal locally before giving an opinion regarding that doctor’s standard of care.