The Locality Rule: The Standard Of Care In New York Medical Malpractice Cases


In order to prove medical malpractice in New York, the patient is required to prove two things:

  • That the medical professional deviated from the accepted standards of medical care; and
  • The deviation caused the patient substantial harm.

Not every negative outcome is considered medical malpractice.  There are cases where the doctor’s treatment has deviated from accepted medical practice, but the deviation did not result in an outcome that was worse.

In New York medical malpractice, the locality rule is very important.  In Pike v. Honsinger, the Court of Appeals created the locality rule and the court wrote that a physician or surgeon must use a “reasonable degree of learning and skill that is ordinarily possessed by physicians and surgeons in the locality where he practices.”

When a physician is measured under the locality rule, s/he is not measured against every physician in the country.  Rather they are measured against physicians within the geographic area where they practice medicine.  This rule was created with the purpose of protecting physicians in small-towns from charged of medical malpractice that could be considered unfair to them because it would be unfair to hold them to the same standard of care that physicians in big cities are held to.

Under the locality rule, injured patients are required to find an expert witness who is familiar with the standard of care within the doctor’s practice area, or a similar community.  Unfortunately, if the victim is unable to find physician who is familiar with that community’s standard of care, and is willing to testify, their case will not go to court.  For physicians, the locality rule limits liability but it also creates uncertainty for them as to what malpractice is from one area to another.

If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligence of a doctor, you should contact an experienced Kingston, New York medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible to evaluate your case.

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  You are always welcome to request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home page of my website at