Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

A Maryland medical malpractice claim requires an expert witness to testify in support of the plaintiff’s case.  Failure to secure an expert medical witness, or provide admissible expert testimony may result in a dismissal of the claim.  In a January 10, 2020 medical negligence case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed whether the testimony of the plaintiff’s expert witness was excluded improperly by the circuit court.  That decision resulted in a dismissal of the plaintiff’s case, prompting her subsequent appeal.

The plaintiff in the case had received medical treatment from the defendant after suffering fractures to her pelvis and arm.  The plaintiff alleged that the defendant failed to timely diagnose and treat an oral infection, which led to pain, an inability to eat, and weight loss.  To support her medical malpractice claim, the plaintiff presented an expert medical witness to testify.

After the deposition of the plaintiff’s expert witness, the defendant moved to exclude his testimony, arguing that he had failed to define the standard of care during his deposition.  The plaintiff sought leave of court to recall her expert and have him clarify his standard of care testimony.  The circuit court did not specifically address the plaintiff’s request, but ruled that the testimony would be excluded because he never specifically stated the standard of care.  The case was then dismissed, as he was the plaintiff’s sole expert witness.

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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.

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In a July 25, 2019 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland revisited a medical negligence case for the second time on appeal.  The plaintiff had filed a Maryland medical malpractice lawsuit against her doctors, alleging that they failed to timely biopsy and diagnose a mass on her right breast.  The plaintiff claimed that that as a result of their negligence, she underwent a bilateral mastectomy instead of a less-invasive lumpectomy and suffered painful and permanent injuries.

After a trial, the jury awarded the plaintiff past medical expenses in the amount of $35,000 and $150,000 in non-economic damages.  The defendants appealed, arguing the trial court had erred by allowing the plaintiff to testify about her distress regarding her fear of death.  In the first appeal, the court agreed, finding that the plaintiff’s chance of survival was at least 88 percent and that the testimony would have an obvious effect on the jury.  The judgment was reversed, and the case was remanded for a new trial.

The trial court, however, ordered that the new trial be limited to non-economic damages only.  The defendants then filed a motion to preclude the plaintiff’s expert from testifying as to whether the plaintiff needed a mastectomy on her right breast due to the alleged delay in diagnosis, and as to the plaintiff’s left breast mastectomy, since it was not medically necessary.  After the motion was granted, the defendants moved for summary judgment based on the plaintiff’s lack of any causation expert, which was also granted.  The plaintiff then filed the current appeal.

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To succeed in a Maryland medical malpractice action, the plaintiff must show that the treatment he received from his doctor fell below professional standards, and as a result, caused the plaintiff’s injury.  In some situations, the defendants may argue that the negligence of non-parties contributed to the plaintiff’s injuries, as in a June 26, 2019 case before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.  However, the defense of non-party negligence must be properly supported by evidence before it can be presented to a jury.

In the case, a cancer patient brought a medical malpractice action for the defendants’ failure to remove a cancerous lymph node before it became inoperable.  The plaintiff had received medical care from multiple doctors before the diagnosis and during the course of his treatment, but eventually pursued his claims against two radiologists and their employer.

The case went to trial.  During the closing argument, the defendants argued that the plaintiff’s injuries resulted from the conduct of three non-party physicians, and not from any negligence on the part of the defendants themselves.  The jury ultimately found that the defendants were not negligent.  The plaintiff appealed, asserting that the trial court had erred by allowing the issue of non-party negligence to go to the jury without expert testimony of same.

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The requirements for filing a Maryland medical malpractice claim are different than those for a typical personal injury case.  If the procedural rules are not followed, the claim could be delayed or even dismissed.  In a May 22, 2019 opinion, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals considered whether or not a plaintiff’s medical malpractice lawsuit should have been dismissed by the trial court.

The case was brought by the estate of a deceased patient.  The patient had undergone heart surgery and, following the procedure, complained of nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms.  The defendant in the case was the cardiologist who provided treatment for her symptoms.  After examining the patient, the defendant discontinued three of her medications.  Shortly thereafter, the patient was hospitalized for severe congestive heart failure.  She underwent another surgery, but her health continued to decline and she died later that day.

The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice claim with the Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office and attached a Certificate of Qualified Expert from a cardiothoracic surgeon.  The parties waived arbitration and the claim was then brought in the circuit court.  The defendants moved to dismiss the case, arguing that the Certificate of Qualified Expert failed to meet the requirements of the Maryland Health Care Malpractice Act.  The circuit court agreed, and the plaintiff filed an appeal.

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When multiple parties contribute to a plaintiff’s injuries, the plaintiff may benefit from the guidance of a Maryland personal injury attorney.  In these types of cases, Maryland law allows the plaintiff to recover the amount of damages that fully compensates the plaintiff for his or her injuries, and no more.  Once that amount has been completely satisfied, the plaintiff cannot pursue compensation from other tortfeasors for the same injuries.

This issue was recently addressed in an April 29, 2019 case decided by the Court of Appeals of Maryland.  The plaintiff in the case brought a medical malpractice action against the hospital that treated her for injuries she suffered in car accident.  After undergoing surgery for injuries caused by the accident, the plaintiff developed an infection.  The antibiotics were given through a Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter (“PICC line”), which was inserted into her left arm.  During the insertion, however, the PICC line punctured the plaintiff’s brachial artery.  As a result, the plaintiff underwent vascular surgery to repair her brachial artery.

The medical malpractice suit was filed after the plaintiff had settled a prior action against her insurance company and the negligent driver that caused the accident.  As a result of the settlements, the plaintiff received compensation for the injuries she suffered in the accident.  The question for the court was whether the plaintiff was therefore barred by the one satisfaction rule from recovering compensation from the hospital on her medical malpractice claim.

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In a Maryland medical malpractice case, the jury instructions are generally important for members of the jury to understand and apply the law to the evidence presented at trial. Sometimes, the instructions provided to the jury may be grounds for appeal.  In January 25, 2019 opinion, the Court of Appeals of Maryland considered whether it was improper for the trial court to give instructions on both the standard of care for general negligence and the higher standard of care for a physician in a medical malpractice case.

The plaintiff in the case had sought medical treatment from the defendant after he experienced numbness in his fingers and intermittent neck and shoulder pain.  The defendant recommended surgery to remove damaged discs from the plaintiff’s spine and fused vertebrae in his neck.  After the defendant had performed the surgery, the plaintiff developed an infection at the location of the operation.  The plaintiff was hospitalized as a result of the infection, and remained hampered by a severely limited range of motion.

The plaintiff sued the defendant for medical negligence and failure to obtain informed consent.  At trial, the court gave the jury a general instruction on negligence using the reasonable person standard, i.e., that negligence is failing to use the caution, attention, or skill of a reasonable person would use under similar circumstances.  The court also gave an instruction that specifically addressed the negligence of a health care provider, which read: a health care provider is negligent if he does not use that degree of care and skill which a reasonably competent health care provider engaged in a similar practice and acting in similar circumstances would use.  The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff on the first count for medical negligence.

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The Maryland Health Care Malpractice Claims Statute may apply to claims alleging negligent dental care as well as medical care.  In a February 8, 2019 Maryland medical malpractice action, the plaintiff sued her oral surgeon for dental malpractice and lack of consent.  The case went to trial before a jury.  At the close of the plaintiff’s case, the court granted the defendant’s motion for judgment, which prevented the issues from going to the jury.  The plaintiff ultimately succeeded on appeal in having the judgment reversed on her malpractice claim.

The defendant in the case removed the plaintiff’s wisdom teeth.  After the surgery, the plaintiff noticed that she could no longer taste food on the left side of her tongue and had lost sensation in that area.  She was evaluated by a neurologist, who diagnosed her with a serious injury to her left lingual nerve.  The plaintiff subsequently filed a lawsuit against the defendant.

At trial, the plaintiff’s expert witness testified that nerve damage such as hers may be caused by sectioning the tooth, a procedure that requires cutting a small bone between the roots of the tooth.  He explained that if the surgeon cuts too deep, he may hit a lingual nerve.  The plaintiff’s dental records, however, did not state whether or not the defendant sectioned her tooth.  The defendant then testified that he may or may not have sectioned the tooth.  The trial court later granted a judgment for the defendant on the malpractice claim, reasoning that the plaintiff’s expert did not specifically provide an opinion as to how the nerve was injured.

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The procedural requirements of a Maryland medical malpractice action are an important part of pursuing a lawsuit after negligent health care.  In some cases, failing to meet the filing deadlines can have an adverse outcome, including dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims.  In a January 18, 2019 appeal, the court was asked to determine whether the plaintiff’s medical malpractice claims were banned by the statute of limitations.

The plaintiff in the case had suffered a leg injury in a jet ski accident and was transferred to the defendant’s hospital for surgery in July of 2010.  Following the surgery, the plaintiff was tested for staph bacteria, and the results came back negative.  A few days later, evidence of a staph infection appeared.  The plaintiff was then discharged to an acute rehabilitation center in Virginia.  After a week at the rehabilitation center, the plaintiff was transferred back to the defendant’s hospital due to the worsening infection.  Over the next few years, the plaintiff was treated multiple times for staph infections and ultimately, underwent a total knee replacement in 2013.

In June of 2013, the plaintiff filed suit against the defendants, and the case was transferred to the U.S. District Court.  The plaintiff had a certificate of qualified expert from a doctor who was prepared to testify that the defendants deviated from the standard of care.  However, finding that the doctor was not qualified to testify as to one of the issues, the court dismissed the claim.

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Developing an appropriate trial strategy in a Maryland medical malpractice case takes legal knowledge and experience.  It may also have a significant impact on the outcome of the case.  A December 31, 2018 medical malpractice case illustrates the importance of following court orders and procedures during a trial.

In the case, the plaintiff’s actions during trial prompted the judge to admonish her while the jury was seated in the courtroom.  The plaintiff’s counsel requested a mistrial, arguing that the exchange had unfairly influenced the jury against the plaintiff.  The trial court denied the motion, and the issue was appealed to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

The plaintiff in the case was the estate of a patient who had died while receiving medical care at the defendant’s hospital.  The personal representative of the estate, who was the daughter of the patient, filed the action alleging that the defendant was negligent in providing medical treatment to her mother.  Prior to trial, the defendant filed a motion to prevent admission of photographs of the patient’s skin wounds to the jury.  The judge granted the motion, finding that the photographs could not be authenticated.

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