fail exam2So, you didn’t pass your medical boards?  Or you didn’t pass your medical boards on your first try?  Worried how it might affect your career as a physician?  Well, you can rest easy when it comes to malpractice suits.  Generally, a defendant physician’s failure to pass board certifications is not admissible as to whether a physician complied with the standard of care.  While performance on a board certifying examination might speak to a physician’s overall knowledge in a particular specialty, it would be improper for a jury to use the failure as evidence that a physician was negligent on a specific occasion. 

When a physician testifies in an expert capacity, the rules change a bit.  Courts have found that if a physician is testifying as an expert, evidence that a physician is not presently board certified might be relevant to impeach his or her credibility.   A court considering such evidence will weigh the danger of unfair prejudice against the evidence’s probative value.  Even so, at least one court has held that evidence of prior attempts to pass a board certification exam are not relevant to assess a physician’s expert’s credibility if the physician was board certified at the time he or she rendered care. 

Moral of the story?  Unless you are not presently board certified or were not board certified at the time you rendered care, evidence of past board failures is unlikely to come into evidence.