Comparison of plaintiff and defendant expert witness qualification in malpractice litigation in otolaryngology

Jean Anderson Eloy, Peter F. Svider, Dharti Patel, Michael Setzen, Soly Baredes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Objective. Malpractice litigation contributes to rising health care costs in the United States. The role of expert witness testimony has been controversial in the past, with medical professional societies issuing statements regarding ethical obligations of physicians. Our objectives were to examine the relative qualifications of expert witnesses testifying on behalf of plaintiffs vs defendants. Study Design and Setting. Analysis of expert witness and physician demographic data available on several databases. Methods. The Westlaw legal database (Thomson Reuters, New York, New York) was searched for otolaryngologist expert witness testimony. Length of experience, practice setting, and subspecialty training information were obtained from hospital, practice, departmental, and state licensing board sites. Scholarly impact was assessed using calculation of the h-index from the Scopus database. Results. Plaintiff expert witnesses had significantly less experience than those testifying for defendants (31.8 vs 35.4 years, P = .047) and lower scholarly impact (h = 6.3 vs 10, P = .045). A significantly higher proportion of defendant witnesses were in academic practice (49.3% vs 31.7%, P = .042). No differences were detected in postresidency fellowship training patterns. Conclusion. Upon comparison of otolaryngologist expert witnesses, practitioners testifying on behalf of plaintiffs had statistically fewer years of experience, had a lower scholarly impact, and were less likely to work in an academic setting. Otolaryngologists who repeatedly served as expert witnesses were more likely to be testifying on behalf of plaintiffs than defendants. Professional societies may need to frequently update guidelines on expert witness testimony and address the ethical obligations of practitioners.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)764-769
Number of pages6
JournalOtolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (United States)
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


  • Expert witness ethical obligations
  • H-index
  • Litigation
  • Medical expert witness testimony
  • Medical malpractice
  • Medicolegal
  • Witness expertise


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