The timing of a Maryland medical malpractice case is important. If filed too late, the defendants may invoke the statute of limitations to prevent the action from proceeding. In a July 20, 2017 case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland decided whether the lower court correctly dismissed the plaintiff’s case as barred by the statute of limitations.
The defendant had performed hip-replacement surgeries on the plaintiff in 2005 and 2010. Although the plaintiff experienced significantly worse pain after the 2010 procedure, the defendant never informed her that her symptoms were anything other than normal results of a successful surgery. The plaintiff consulted another orthopedic surgeon on December 6, 2010, who informed her that she would need a corrective surgery. On January 7, 2011, the plaintiff opened a letter from her insurance company, advising that there had been a recall of certain prosthetic hip components, and it was likely that she had received one of the recalled components when the defendant performed her right hip replacement in April 2010. The plaintiff filed her malpractice claims against the defendant on January 2, 2014.
In Maryland, the statute of limitations requires professional liability claims against health care providers to be filed within the earlier of: (1) five years from the time the injury was inflicted; or (2) three years from the date the injury was discovered. The key issue in the case was when the plaintiff became aware of facts that would have caused a reasonable patient to investigate a potential malpractice claim against the defendant. That issue was complicated by the fact that, in the field of medicine, an unsuccessful result alone does not necessarily establish negligence on the part of the health care provider. Instead, to establish a claim of medical injury, a plaintiff must prove not only a bad result but also a breach of the standard of care that was a proximate cause of the bad result.