Locality Rule In Medical Malpractice


In order to prove a case of medical malpractice in New York a person needs to prove:

  1. That there was a deviation from accepted standards of medical care by a doctor or medical professional; and
  2. That substantial harm resulted from that deviation.

There is a high standard for proving medical malpractice.  Not every bad outcome resulted from medical malpractice.  Additionally, there are times with a doctor’s treatment has deviated from good and accepted practice, but the deviation did not result in a worse outcome.

In determining the applicable standard of care New York follows the locality rule.  Under this rule, a physician is not measured against all physicians in the country.  Rather physicians are measured against physicians within the local area where they practice medicine.  It has been argued however that because of the advancements in medical technology that the standard of care should be the same throughout the country.

The purpose of the locality rule is to protect small-town physicians from potentially unfair medical malpractice charges because it would be unfair to hold these doctors to the same standard of care as experts in big cities.  However, this rule creates uncertainty as to the standard of care and what is considered medical malpractice from one area to another.

However the locality rule may negatively impact both patients and physicians for two reasons:

  1. Physicians may not adapt to scientific progress as soon as they otherwise would, and
  2. The locality rule is used to determine who is qualified to give expert witness testimony.

Patients are required under the locality rule to find an expert witness who is familiar with the standards of care in the community, or a community that is similar, in which the doctor practices.  If the patient cannot find an expert witness who is familiar with the applicable standard of care and is willing to testify, then the case cannot go to court.

If you or a loved one has been the injured as a result of a doctor’s negligence, contact an experienced Kingston, New York medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible.

But what do you think?  I would love to hear from you!  Leave a comment or I also welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882 or you can drop me an e-mail at jfisher@fishermalpracticelaw.com.  You are always welcome to request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home page of my website at www.protectingpatientrights.com.