New York Medical Malpractice Standard Of Care: The Locality Rule


The locality rule is a very important rule in New York medical malpractice cases that is unlikely to change anytime soon.  In the case Pike v. Honsinger, the Court of Appeals created the locality rule.  The court wrote that a physician and surgeon enters into a doctor/patient relationship s/he impliedly represent that s/he possess, and the law will place a duty on the doctor to possess, the “reasonable degree of learning and skill that is ordinarily possessed by physicians and surgeons in the locality where he practices,” and which is regarded by those familiar with the employment as necessary to qualify him or her to engage in the practice of medicine and surgery.

Under the locality rule a physician is not measured against all the physicians in the country (it has been argued that medical technology has become so advanced that it should be leveling out around the country and that the standard of care should be the same throughout the country) but rather against physicians within their local area where they practice medicine.

The purpose of this rule is to protect physicians in small-towns from medical malpractice charges that may be considered unfair for them since it would be unfair to hold them to the same standard of care as experts in the big city.

However, some people believe that the locality rule can have a negative impact on both patients and physicians.  The belief is that the locality rule is unfair to patients for two reasons:

  1. Physicians may be slow to adapt to scientific progress, and
  2. The rule also determines who is qualified to give testimony as an expert witness in medical malpractice cases.

Under the locality rule, patients are required to find an expert witness familiar with the standard of care in the community, or a similar community, in which the doctor practices.  If the victim is not able to find a physician familiar with that standard of care who is willing to testify, the case would not go to court.

Physicians have their own issues with the locality rule.  While it can limit their liability in medical malpractice cases, it can also create uncertainty as to what is malpractice from one state to another.

If you or a loved one has been injured because of a doctor’s negligence, you should contact an experienced 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