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Ben Glass
Ben Glass
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What Experts Must Say

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From time to time you see a debate about what “magic words” medical experts must use when testifying. The Supreme Court of Virginia just ruled on this issue in a plastic surgery medical malpractice case involving a botched “tummy tuck.” While noting that the expert had not used the right “magic words,” the Court also noted that the defendant plastic surgeon’s lawyers had not made a timely objection to the question. The verdict against the surgeon was upheld.

Cosmetic plastic surgeon George Bitar, MD was sued in Fairfax, Virginia Circuit Court for
medical malpractice arising out of a “tummy tuck” operation. The jury found in favor of the patient
and Dr. Bitar appealed the verdict.

The doctor’s complaint was that the patient’s expert witness, while outlining details of the
malpractice, failed to couch his opinions using the “magic phrase” “within a reasonable degree of
medical probability.” Dr. Bitar’s lawyers waited, however, until after the expert had left the
courtroom to make the objection.

The Supreme Court ruled that the objection had to be made while the expert was testifying,
not later. The Court upheld the malpractice verdict against Dr. Bitar.