Maryland Court of Special Appeals Reviews Standard of Care in Medical Malpractice Case

The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland recently reviewed a lower court’s decision granting summary judgment in favor of a physician-defendant in a medical malpractice case.  In Puppolo v. Sivaraman, the plaintiff’s wife died as the result of the administration of heparin, an anticoagulant used to prevent blood clotting during dialysis.  Heparin is not typically administered to patients with platelet levels below 50, since there is a high risk that heparin-induced thrombocytopenia, a serious and sometimes fatal condition, may occur.  On December 23, 2008, although the plaintiff’s wife had a platelet level of 1, she was given two doses of heparin, and she died shortly thereafter.

The plaintiff brought a wrongful death claim against his wife’s doctor, alleging that he breached his duty of care by administering the heparin to his wife, or allowing it to be administered to her.  In order to establish medical malpractice, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed a duty of care to the victim, the defendant breached the duty of care, the defendant’s actions caused the injury to the victim, and damages were incurred.  Generally, expert medical testimony is required to prove the standard of care and what constitutes a breach of that standard.

In Puppolo, the evidence indicated that the doctor did not write an order for heparin and that one of the other resident doctors working in the hospital ordered the prescription.  The plaintiff nevertheless contended that the defendant was liable for the resident’s breach of the standard of care under the borrowed servant rule.  The lower court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, finding that there was nothing to support the plaintiff’s assertion that the defendant ordered, directed, approved, or controlled the ordering of heparin.

On appeal, the court noted the testimony of the plaintiff’s expert, opining that the defendant could have breached the appropriate standard of care if he had administered the heparin, or if a resident acting under his supervision had ordered the heparin and the order was not corrected by the defendant in his capacity as the attending physician.  The appeals court cited the holding in Franklin v. Gupta, 81 Md.App. 345 (1990), concluding that a physician is responsible for the negligent acts of others only when the negligent actors were, in fact, under the doctor’s direct supervision and control.

In reviewing the evidence of record, the appeals court found that there was nothing to support the plaintiff’s contention that the defendant either administered or prescribed the heparin, or that the defendant was directly supervising the physician who did order the heparin.  Accordingly, the Court of Special Appeals affirmed the judgment of the lower court.

If you or a loved one has been injured due to faulty medical treatment, you may be able to pursue compensation from the negligent health care provider.  The Maryland attorneys at Foran & Foran provide aggressive, diligent, and experienced legal representation to clients in personal injury claims.  To discuss your claim with a skilled injury lawyer, contact the medical malpractice law firm of Foran & Foran, P.A. by phone at (301) 441-2022 or through our website.

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 of Special Appeals Rules in Medical Malpractice Case, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published June 24, 2015

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