Appeals Court Reviews Maryland Medical Malpractice Action Dismissed on Procedural Grounds

To file a medical malpractice claim in Maryland, a plaintiff must follow certain procedural rules and deadlines provided under the law.  In a November 27, 2019 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland addressed the consequences of failing to comply with these rules.  The plaintiff in the case had brought a medical malpractice claim against her doctor and the hospital following her cataract surgery, alleging that she suffered a loss of vision in her left eye.

To bring a medical negligence lawsuit under the Health Care Malpractice Claims Act, when the amount sought is more than $30,000, a plaintiff must first file a claim with the Director of the Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office.  Within 90 days after filing a claim, the plaintiff must file a certificate of a qualified expert along with a report from that expert.  The certificate and report must attest to the defendant’s departure from the relevant standard of care, which proximately caused the plaintiff’s injury.

There are exceptions to the requirement that a certificate be filed within 90 days.  In general, an extension may be granted if the failure to file the certificate was not willful or a result of gross negligence, or for good cause shown by the plaintiff.

In this case, the plaintiffs had been given two extensions, but they had filed the required certificate and report after the extended deadlines had passed.  The defendants filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the plaintiff’s claims should be dismissed due to the untimely filings.  The circuit court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss, and the plaintiff appealed the decision.

On appeal, the court cited to the procedural rules and Maryland case law, which state that a circuit court is to dismiss a complaint without prejudice if the plaintiff fails to timely file an expert certificate and report.  Although the plaintiff may re-file, she may be barred from pursuing a claim if the statute of limitations has expired.  The appeals court went on to hold that, in keeping with the law, a failure to file the certificate and report within both the statutory period and any extension will result in the dismissal of a complaint, as was the case here.

The court next addressed the plaintiff’s argument that a third extension should have been granted after the fact.  The court noted that, although the Health Care Malpractice Claims Act does not expressly define “good cause,” the plaintiff had not offered any excuse or cause for the untimely filing of the certificate and report.  Without any explanation from the plaintiff, the appeals court held that the lower court did not err in concluding that no good cause had been shown for another extension.  Accordingly, the decision was affirmed.

The medical malpractice attorneys at Foran & Foran, P.A. can provide skilled legal representation and assertive advocacy for victims.  We handle a variety of personal injury claims, from car accident cases to medical negligence and many more.  Request a free consultation to discuss your claim with an experienced injury lawyer by calling (301) 441-2022 or contacting Foran & Foran online.