Maryland Court of Special Appeals Holds Lower Court Erred in Setting Aside $926,000 Jury Award in Medical Malpractice Case

In a recent opinion, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals held that a trial court erred in setting aside a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiffs and entering judgment for the defendants in a medical malpractice action. In Gibau v. Falik, (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Dec. 22, 2015), the decedent was hospitalized after suffering an assault and eventually died. The decedent’s survivors brought a wrongful death action based on the alleged medical malpractice of the treating physician. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendant breached the standard of care when he decided not to administer anti-seizure medication to the decedent, and when he failed to transfer the decedent back to the intensive care unit on the morning of his death. The plaintiffs claimed that the alleged medical malpractice caused the decedent to suffer a seizure, which ultimately resulted in his death.hammer-to-fall-1223606-639x424

After trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs in the amount of $926,640. The circuit court then granted the defendant’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, but on grounds that were not raised by the defendant. Instead, the circuit court concluded that no reasonable trier of fact could have found that the defendant breached the standard of care in the case, nor that the alleged breach was a causative factor in the defendant’s death.

On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that the circuit court erred by granting the defendant’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict on a ground that had not been raised by defense counsel. The appeals court agreed with the plaintiffs, explaining that the particularity requirement of Maryland Rule 2-519 implements principles of basic fairness. By granting the defendant’s motion on grounds that had not been briefed, the plaintiffs were deprived of the opportunity to respond to the argument. Accordingly, since the argument was not raised with particularity before the circuit court, the Court of Special Appeals found that the lower court erred on considering the issue and vacated the order.

The appeals court also went on to find that the circuit court’s substantive determination that no reasonable jury could have found malpractice was erroneous. In order to prove the tort of medical malpractice, which is a form of negligence, a plaintiff must prove the following elements:  duty or standard of care; breach of the standard of care; causation of injury; and damages. The appeals court found that there was evidence to support the jury’s verdict. In addition, the court explained that in considering a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, the court is not tasked with determining whether the jury reached the correct result in the court’s opinion. Instead, the court’s responsibility is to evaluate whether there is “any legally competent evidence, however slight,” to support the jury’s verdict.

If you or a family member has been the victim of medical malpractice, it is important to seek legal guidance from a skilled attorney who is qualified to represent you in a personal injury lawsuit. The Maryland firm of Foran & Foran, P.A. assists individuals in a variety of personal injury cases, including auto accidents, medical malpractice, premises liability, and more. To discuss your case with one of our accident lawyers, contact us by phone at (301) 441-2022 or online.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Court of Special Appeals Upholds Majority of Million-Dollar Jury Verdict in Medical Malpractice Case, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published December 9, 2015

Maryland Court Allows Plaintiff to Bring Wrongful Death Suit Based on Same Conduct as Prior Personal Injury Case, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published August 21, 2015