In some cases, a medical malpractice claim may be brought after the statutory deadline for filing if it falls under a tolling exception. One of those exceptions may allow a mentally incompetent person to bring an action after the typical filing deadlines. In Kratz ex rel. Kratz-Spera v. MedSource Cmty. Servs., Inc., 228 Md. App. 476 (2016), the adult plaintiff suffered from severe autism and intellectual disability, and he lived in a group home operated by the defendant. In 2008, the plaintiff’s mother and sister were named as his court-appointed guardians. In 2013, after the plaintiff was injured in two separate incidents at the defendant’s group home in 2006 and 2009, his guardians brought suit against the defendant on his behalf. The defendant moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that it was not timely filed, and the trial court granted the motion.
In general, the Maryland Health Care Malpractice Claims Act provides that a cause of action must be brought against a health care provider within three years of the date the injury was discovered, or in any event no more than five years from the date of the injury. However, in the case of a minor or a mentally incompetent person, the action must be filed within the lesser of three years or the applicable period of limitations after the date the disability is removed. In Kratz ex rel. Kratz-Spera v. MedSource Cmty. Servs., Inc., the plaintiff’s mother knew of the 2006 incident on the day it happened, and she was notified of the 2008 incident on the next morning.
On appeal, the issue for the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland was whether the appointment of a guardian of a mentally incompetent person removes the disability of that person for the purposes of applying the statute of limitations. The court ultimately held that the tolling exception preserves the legal rights of a mentally incompetent individual until a guardian is appointed. Once a guardian is appointed, and he or she gains the requisite knowledge to file a claim on the individual’s behalf, the statute begins to run.
In Kratz ex rel. Kratz-Spera v. MedSource Cmty. Servs., Inc., the court found that the claims that arose from the 2006 incident were preserved by the tolling exception until July 18, 2008, when the co-guardians were appointed, at which point the statute of limitations began to run, since they had knowledge of the injury. In addition, the guardian’s knowledge of the 2009 incident triggered the statute when it was reported to her on the day after it occurred, on November 25, 2009. Accordingly, the court found the action was untimely filed by the plaintiffs on June 18, 2013, and thus it was barred by the statute of limitations.
Obtaining qualified and experienced legal representation for your medical malpractice case can make a difference in proving your claim. At the Maryland firm of Foran & Foran, our skilled injury attorneys are dedicated to assisting victims of medical malpractice and other forms of negligence. If you have questions regarding compensation for an injury, schedule a consultation with one of our knowledgeable lawyers by phone at (301) 441-2022 or through our website.
More Blog Posts:
Maryland Court of Special Appeals Reviews Standard of Care in Medical Malpractice Case, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published March 31, 2016