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The locality rule

In malpractice law there is a concept known as the “locality rule”. Proof of malpractice requires that the claimant demonstrate that the opposing party committed an act inconsistent with the standards of care of his or her profession as established by members of the same profession in the same or similar communities. As the rule was historically applied, a claimant would have to show, by means of expert testimony, what the standards of care are within the geographic community in which the defending party practiced and that those standards were violated, causing injury.

Because of this geographic emphasis, the “locality rule” had restricted application. However, in more recent times, the law has recognized that advances in travel, communication, and publication have operated to minimize differences between urban and rural practitioners. Professional seminars, meetings, journals and professional exchange of all sorts have affected how medicine and other professions are practiced. The digital age and resulting ease of access to information have become a part of everyday commerce and affect the standards for ordinary care. Consequently, in these modern times, a universality in manner of practice has become recognized. Thus, the restrictive application of the “locality rule” has become intermixed with a realization that professional procedures have become more standardized. The proper foundation for expert opinion on the standard of care relies less upon the witnesses’ knowledge of geographic locality than on the witnesses’ knowledge of the of conditions and circumstances of the treatment rendered.