Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

In Maryland, malpractice actions against health care providers may be subject to Maryland’s Health Care Malpractice Claim Act (Act).  The Act provides procedures and requirements that govern Maryland medical malpractice lawsuits, some of which differ from other areas of personal injury law.  In a September 19, 2018 malpractice case, the defendant appealed the jury’s verdict and award of $250,000 in damages in favor of the plaintiffs.  One of the arguments presented by the defendant was that the plaintiffs failed to present a medical expert with sufficient qualifications, as required under the Act.

The defendant in the case was an OB/GYN practice that had provided prenatal care to the plaintiffs during a high-risk pregnancy.  After recurring complications, the plaintiffs’ baby was born prematurely, at twenty-four weeks.  Sadly, she died just two days after her birth.  The plaintiffs filed suit against the that provided prenatal care to the plaintiffs and their infant, alleging medical malpractice and wrongful death claims.  After a trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs on their wrongful death claim.  The defendant appealed the matter to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

The plaintiff in a Maryland medical malpractice must prove the following: (1) a duty requiring adherence to a standard of care; (2) a breach of the standard of care; (3) causation of the plaintiffs’ injury as a result of the breach; and (4) damages.  In virtually all medical malpractice claims, a plaintiff’s proof that the defendant breached the standard of care must be offered through the testimony of an expert witness.

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A successful Maryland medical malpractice lawsuit can help families recover compensation for the loss of a loved one.  In one such recent case, a Maryland jury awarded a total of ten millions dollars to the family members of a patient who had died after receiving medical treatment from the defendants.  Although the non-economic damages were reduced pursuant to Maryland law, the victim’s wife and his seven children succeeded on their medical malpractice wrongful death action.  The doctor and hospital defendants filed an appeal, which was considered by the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland in an opinion issued August 30, 2018.

In 2013, the victim in the case was taken to the hospital by ambulance, complaining of weakness in his arms and legs.  Blood tests revealed that he was suffering from acute rhabdomyolysis, a condition in which muscle fibers break down, releasing muscle proteins in the bloodstream.  During his hospital admittance, the victim experienced an elevated level of potassium in the blood, which his doctor identified as hyperkalemia.  The doctor ordered the hospital staff to administer several different medications to manage the issue.  Overnight, the victim began experiencing extreme abdominal pain and a drop in blood pressure.  He was transferred to the intensive care unit and later underwent extensive surgery, from which he never regained consciousness.

The victim’s family members filed suit against the doctor and the hospital, alleging medical malpractice and wrongful death.  Specifically, the plaintiffs argued that the doctor negligently administered a particular medication that damaged the victim’s intestines, ultimately causing his death.  After a trial, the jury found in favor of the plaintiffs.

The procedures for bringing a Maryland medical malpractice action can be complicated in some cases.  In a June 28, 2018 decision, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered whether the plaintiff could pursue a claim against his  doctor and hospital after the circuit court dismissed his case for failing to comply with requirements of the Maryland Health Care Malpractice Claims Act (Act).  The primary issue for the appeals court was whether the lower court’s dismissal was improper.

The plaintiff in the case underwent heart surgery and, following medical complications, was admitted to the intensive care unit.  In the ICU, he developed pressure ulcers, which required additional treatment.  He filed a claim against the defendants, alleging negligence in failing to implement procedures to prevent the ulcers and failing to treat them.

To initiate a claim under the Act, a plaintiff must first file his claim with the Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office and, within ninety days, submit a certificate of a qualified expert attesting to the alleged negligence.  The plaintiff can then waive arbitration and file suit in circuit court.  The certificate must meet specific requirements, one of which is to identify the allegedly negligent physician by name.  If the certificate is not filed or it is insufficient, the claim will be dismissed, unless a 90 day extension is granted for the plaintiff to submit a valid certificate.

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Knowing when to seek medical treatment can be a complicated and very personal decision.  Whether that decision has any effect on a health provider’s liability for negligence was the issue in an April 26, 2018 Maryland medical malpractice case before the Court of Special Appeals.  

The plaintiff in the case filed a medical malpractice claim against his physician, alleging that the physician negligently cut the plaintiff’s bile duct while surgically removing his inflamed gallbladder.  Before visiting the physician, the plaintiff had gone to the emergency room for stomach pains.  The plaintiff left, however, before the condition could be diagnosed, and he waited an additional 11 days before seeking treatment again from the defendant, who performed the surgery.

The defendant denied any negligence and further alleged, as a defense, that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent in failing to timely seek treatment for severe abdominal pains.  The jury ultimately found that the defendant was not negligent.  The plaintiff appealed, arguing that the defense was improper because any alleged contributory negligence occurred before he sought treatment from the defendant.

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If medical negligence is suspected in the death of a loved one, a Maryland wrongful death attorney may be consulted to investigate and identify potential legal claims and responsible parties.  In a tragic case before the Court of Special Appeals on May 18, 2018, the parents of an infant born via gestational carrier brought a negligence claim against the doctor and fertility clinic that facilitated and supervised the pregnancy.  The premature infant survived only 21 days before her death.

The plaintiffs in the case had entered into a gestational carrier contract with a woman who agreed to surrogate their child.  The woman failed to disclose her history of pregnancy complications, however, and the defendant-doctor proceeded with an embryo transfer without obtaining the woman’s prior medical records and clearance from the woman’s regular obstetrician.  After a successful embryo transfer, the woman became pregnant with the plaintiffs’ child.  Just 25 weeks into the pregnancy, the woman developed severe, life-threatening preeclampsia and underwent an emergency C-section delivery.  The infant succumbed to an infection and died not long after her birth.

Eventually, a review of the woman’s medical records revealed that during her last pregnancy, also as a gestational carrier, she developed preeclampsia and delivered the baby prematurely.  Medical experts testified that preeclampsia is known to worsen with each pregnancy, so the woman’s medical history should have disqualified her from being a gestational carrier.  After trial, the jury found the defendants liable for medical negligence.  The infant’s estate and the parents were awarded over $44 million in non-economic damages, although that amount was reduced by the statutory cap.

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The liability of certain parties may be a complicated issue in some Maryland medical malpractice cases.  In an April 27, 2018 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland examined the question of whether a medical group was liable for the alleged negligence of an employee other than the physician-defendant.  The jury in the case found that the physician was not negligent, but the medical group, through one of its agents, was negligent.  The medical group filed the current appeal.

The plaintiff in the case was diagnosed with a retinal tear in his eye and needed surgery.  When he suffered permanent vision loss after the operation, he brought suit against the eye clinic and the surgeon who operated on him.  Under the Maryland Health Care Act, negligence requires a duty owed by the defendant to the plaintiff, a violation of the standard of care that constitutes a breach of that duty, causation, and injury.  In addition, the plaintiff must file a certificate of a qualified expert and report attesting to the defendant’s departure from the standard of care and causation of the alleged injury.

The case went to trial, at which the plaintiff’s medical expert testified that in his opinion, the surgeon violated the standard of care.  When asked about the negligence of the eye clinic, the expert stated that if the surgeon was an employee of the eye clinic, it was his opinion that the eye clinic was also negligent.  The jury found that the surgeon did not deviate from the standard of care.  The jury further found that the agents and employees of the eye clinic were negligent and awarded $1,000,000 in damages to the plaintiff.

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In a civil lawsuit, opposing parties are required to share some information related to their claims and defenses during the discovery process.  If a dispute arises, the parties are expected to resolve the matter between themselves and turn to the court for intervention only as a last resort.  A January 17, 2018 case before the Special Appeals Court demonstrates how these issues may come up in a Maryland medical malpractice claim.

The plaintiff in the case alleged that the defendants were negligent in performing an upper endoscopy procedure that was necessary to treat the decedent’s esophageal cancer.  During the procedure, the decedent’s esophagus was perforated, which the doctor treated with a stent.  Two weeks later, the doctor had to perform a second surgery to repair the perforation.  In the six months following the surgeries, the decedent suffered from a variety of health problems.  She had a preexisting history of chronic pancreatitis that worsened and required surgery on her pancreas.  During her recovery from the pancreatic surgery, the decedent developed complications, including sepsis, and died six days later.

The plaintiff filed suit against the hospital, alleging that the doctor was negligent and breached the standard of care when he perforated the decedent’s esophagus and that this breach started the decline that ultimately caused her death seven months later.  Following a trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant.  The plaintiff appealed and challenged the trial court’s decision to admit the defendant’s expert witness and certain evidence into trial.  Specifically, he argued that the defendant made an expert witness designation that was not complete and also failed to identify physical exhibits in a timely manner.

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Although the Maryland Health Care Malpractice Claims Act (HCA) covers most injuries arising out of medical malpractice, some injuries seemingly overlap with ordinary negligence.  In a January 19, 2018 case, the Court of Appeals of Maryland examined whether claims for negligence and other related causes of action alleged a medical injury within the meaning of the HCA.

In the case, the plaintiff and her husband sued a nursing care facility for injuries the plaintiff suffered during her stay there.  The plaintiff’s injuries were caused when she fell from her bed, allegedly caused by the defendant’s failure to properly secure her mattress to the bed frame.  A mechanical lift was used to raise the plaintiff from the floor, but the lift released and dropped her again onto the floor instead of returning her to the bed.

The lawsuit was dismissed by the trial court for failure to file with the Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolute Office (ADR Office) first.  The plaintiffs appealed the decision.  The basic question on appeal was whether the plaintiffs’ claims were medical injuries.  If the claims alleged were found to be medical injuries within the HCA, they were required to file them in the ADR Office as a condition precedent to their court action.  If not, they were free to bring their claims as a non-medical negligence case in the circuit court.

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The requirements for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit can be complicated, but a Maryland medical malpractice attorney can help clients avoid dismissal on procedural grounds.  A November 6, 2017 case before the Court of Special Appeals illustrates some of the problems caused by failing to comply with the conditions precedent to the filing of a medical malpractice complaint.

The plaintiff in the case filed a lawsuit against his doctor without legal counsel, alleging that the doctor misdiagnosed his cardiovascular disease as acid reflux.  The defendant waived arbitration, and the matter was transferred to the circuit court.  The defendant moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint for failing to file a certificate of a qualified expert within 90 days of filing his claim, and failing to file his complaint in the circuit court within 60 days of the defendant’s election to waive arbitration and transfer.  The circuit court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss, and the plaintiff appealed.

The Health Care Malpractice Claims Act provides the procedures for all lawsuits by a person against a health care provider for a medical injury with damages in excess of the jurisdictional limit.  The Act creates a mandatory arbitration system for all medical malpractice claims.  Before bringing a civil action in court, therefore, a plaintiff must first file a claim with the Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office, and they must file a certificate and report of a qualified expert within 90 days.

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If you have been injured by negligent medical treatment, you may be able to bring a Maryland medical malpractice claim against the health care provider who was responsible.  In a recent medical malpractice case, the plaintiff won on his claim against his neurosurgeon and was awarded compensation for his losses by the jury.  The defendant appealed the matter to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, which issued a ruling on September 1, 2017.

The plaintiff in the case had suffered years of neck and shoulder pain and numbness in his right hand.  The defendant performed surgery to remove damaged discs from the plaintiff’s cervical spine.  The plaintiff’s recovery was difficult, and some five months after the operation, the plaintiff tested positive for a Staph infection.  At trial, the plaintiff’s expert witness testified that the defendant and his staff were too slow in diagnosing and treating the infection.  The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, finding that the defendant was negligent.

The primary issue on appeal was whether the jury instructions were proper.  The jury in the case was given instructions in terms of the standard of care that should be employed by a reasonably competent health care provider engaged in a similar practice and acting in similar circumstances.  However, in addition, an instruction was provided on the general negligence concept of foreseeable circumstances, describing how a reasonable person changes their conduct according to the circumstances and danger that is known or would be appreciated by a reasonable person.  On appeal, the defendant argued that the jury instruction sounding in general negligence principles was prejudicial.

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