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Appeals Court Allows Plaintiff to Proceeding with Maryland Medical Malpractice Claim Against Nursing Facility Despite Delay

Personal injuries arising out of negligent heath care providers may be subject to the Maryland Health Care Malpractice Claims Act.  A Maryland medical malpractice attorney can guide you through the requirements and deadlines of the Act.  In a June 17, 2020 case, the Court of Special Appeals considered whether the plaintiff’s delay in filing a medical malpractice complaint against a nursing home was grounds for dismissal.

The plaintiff in the case was admitted to the nursing facility for rehabilitation following his hip replacement surgery.  He alleged that he developed pressure ulcers in several areas of his body during his stay there, which became infected and ultimately led to a below-the-knee amputation of his right leg.

Almost three years after he left the nursing facility, the plaintiff initiated an action under the Maryland Health Care Malpractice Claims Act.  The defendant waived arbitration, which triggered the 60-day window in which the plaintiff must file his complaint in circuit court.  The plaintiff missed the deadline, however, and did not file the complaint until five months later.  The defendant moved to dismiss, arguing that the delay was inherently prejudicial.  The circuit court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

In Maryland, those who wish to pursue a claim against a healthcare provider for a medical injury must first file their claim, as well as required documentation, with the Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office.  If a party waives arbitration, the plaintiff has 60 days to file a complaint in the circuit court.  Failure to meet the deadline may constitute grounds for dismissal, if the court finds that the adverse party was prejudiced by the delay in the filing of the complaint.

On appeal, the court held that a delay is not inherently prejudicial and should not be presumed simply due to the amount of time that had passed.  Rather, there must be facts and circumstances demonstrating that the delay actually placed the defendant in a less favorable position in order to find that the defendant was prejudiced.

The defendant then argued that it had suffered actual prejudice because thirty-eight of the health care providers that were employed at the facility during the plaintiff’s stay were no longer working there, which led to the unavailability of key witnesses.  The appeals court explained that only events occurring during the five-month delay may be considered, and that even if some employees had left during that period, it would not automatically make them unavailable as a witness.  The appeals court went on to reverse the dismissal, finding that the defendant had not established prejudice.

Victims of medical negligence may be able to recover damages for their injuries in a medical malpractice suit.  At Foran & Foran, P.A., our Maryland medical malpractice lawyers can provide trustworthy advice to individuals who have been injured by a negligent person, hospital, or health care practice.  We also represent plaintiffs in personal injury actions arising out of premises liability, motor vehicle collisions, and more.  To schedule a free consultation regarding your case, call Foran & Foran at (301) 441-2022 or submit our contact form online.

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