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Articles Posted in Medical Negligence

In Maryland, expert testimony is generally required to establish a medical malpractice claim.  In a May 26, 2021 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered whether evidence of negligence, which included opinions of two medical experts, was sufficient to survive a summary judgment motion in a medical malpractice case.

The plaintiff in the case was receiving prenatal care from the defendants during her pregnancy.  At 38 weeks, she reported decreased fetal movement at a routine prenatal visit.  She was referred to the hospital for further evaluation, where she received care from a delivery nurse and physician.  Ultimately, the physician diagnosed her with gestational hypertension and discharged her the same day.  Four days later, the plaintiff was admitted to the hospital with high blood pressure and had an emergency Caesarean section.  Her son was born with multiple health conditions, including a brain disorder.

The plaintiffs filed medical malpractice claims, alleging negligence against the doctor for failing to deliver her son four days earlier, against the nurse for failing to initiate the hospital’s chain of command policy, and against the hospital.  After the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the nurse and hospital, the plaintiffs sought review of the decision on appeal.

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In Maryland, performing surgery on a patient without their informed consent may be grounds for a medical malpractice suit.  Generally, a medical expert is required to provide evidence of a doctor’s alleged negligence.  In a March 15, 2021 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a lawsuit against a surgeon for performing an allegedly unnecessary procedure on the plaintiff without her informed consent.  The matter came before the court on appeal after a jury ruled in favor of the plaintiff.

The plaintiff in the case had sought medical treatment from the defendant for low back pain radiating through her left leg and foot.  After several examinations, the defendant recommended surgery on both the left and right side of the spine, despite the lack of any symptoms on the plaintiff’s right side.  Following the laminectomy and bilateral laminectomy, the plaintiff experienced physical and neurological pain and disability.  The plaintiff then brought a medical negligence suit against the defendant, alleging that the surgery to the right side of her spine was performed unnecessarily and without informed consent.

Before the trial, the court granted the plaintiff’s motion to preclude any evidence or testimony concerning disciplinary action taken, and later overturned, against the plaintiff’s expert medical witness.  In so doing, the trial court found that such evidence was irrelevant to the credibility of the expert witness and that questions about it would be prejudicial.  The case was then tried over several days, after which the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff.

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A Maryland medical malpractice claim based on the lack of informed consent can be complicated in some cases, particularly when the patient is a minor.  In a February 1, 2021 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland analyzed the duty of healthcare professionals and the doctrine of informed consent in Maryland.

The sixteen-year-old plaintiff in the case had been diagnosed with early-onset preeclampsia during the second trimester of her pregnancy.  The medical team met with the plaintiff and her mother to discuss the treatment options, which included terminating the pregnancy, inducing labor for vaginal delivery, or cesarean section.  Although her doctors continued to recommend a cesarean section for the wellbeing of the fetus, the plaintiff repeatedly confirmed her decision to avoid the procedure.  In addition, the plaintiff signed two consent forms explicitly declining a cesarean section with the understanding that inducing vaginal delivery would impose additional stress on the fetus and that the infant would have a better chance of survival if a cesarean section was performed.  Following induced vaginal labor, the baby was born with severe mental and physical disabilities that require life-long dependent and medical care.

The plaintiff filed suit against the hospital, claiming that the hospital had violated her right to informed consent with respect to her delivery options.  The jury found in favor of the plaintiff and awarded damages of approximately 230 million dollars.  The hospital appealed on the grounds that the evidence was insufficient to support the jury’s findings on the issue of breach of informed consent.

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Some Maryland medical malpractice cases may arise out of a misdiagnosed or undiagnosed condition by a health care practitioner.  In a November 23, 2020 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a case brought by the personal estate of a cancer patient and her family against the radiologist who treated her.  The matter was on appeal after the trial court entered judgment in favor of the defendant despite the jury’s verdict for the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs in the case alleged that the defendants were negligent in failing to diagnose the decedent’s breast cancer.  In 2011, the decedent had received a routine breast cancer examination from the defendants, who found no abnormalities.  Six months later, the decedent discovered a lump in her right breast and returned to the defendants’ practice in May of 2012.  After performing a mammogram, the defendants concluded that the lump was benign.

Fifteen months later, the decedent returned for a follow-up examination and mammogram, which showed an abnormality in her right breast.  The decedent underwent a biopsy a month later, which revealed that she had Stage III breast cancer.  Despite two years of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, the cancer spread.  The decedent died in February of 2016 at the age of 56.

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Testimony of a medical expert may be crucial to succeed in a Maryland medical malpractice lawsuit.  In a September 2, 2020 case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed whether the opinion of the plaintiff’s medical expert met the requirements of the Maryland Civil Rules.  The issue was raised by the defendants, who appealed a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff for almost $300,000.

In the case, the defendants had performed a total hip replacement on the plaintiff.  Shortly after the surgery, the plaintiff began to experience severe pain and discomfort.  The defendants ordered x-rays several days later, which revealed that the prosthetic had perforated through the plaintiff’s femur and into the muscles of his thigh.  The plaintiff subsequently underwent another surgery to correctly place the prosthetic.

The plaintiffs filed a medical malpractice suit against the surgeon and the hospital, alleging that the defendants failed to diagnose and correct the misplaced prosthetic during or after the first surgery.  At trial, the plaintiff’s medical expert testified that the defendants did not meet the standard of care because they had failed to use x-rays during the surgery or order x-rays following the surgery.  After the jury found the defendants negligent, the defendants appealed.

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A Maryland wrongful death action based on the negligence of police or law enforcement officers generally has a higher burden of proof than a typical negligence claim.  In a September 24, 2020 wrongful death case arising out of a police shooting, the Maryland Court of Special Appeal considered whether summary judgment was properly granted in favor of the police officer.

The defendant in the case attempted to pull over the decedent, who was driving an SUV that matched the description of a vehicle that had eluded the police weeks ago after a high-speed chase.  The decedent sped away, with the defendant following him through a residential neighborhood.  The decedent then got out of the SUV, kicked in the door of a townhouse, and ran upstairs.  The police officer testified that after he ordered the decedent to come down, the decedent rushed down the stairs quickly and aggressively, leading the officer to believe that he was attempting to take his weapon.  The defendant stated that although he fired his weapon at the decedent, the decedent continued down the stairs and grabbed him.  During the struggle, the officer fired several shots, and the decedent ultimately died from a gunshot wound to his chest.

The survivors of the decedent brought a wrongful death claim against the police officer.  The trial court, finding that the officer had acted reasonably, granted judgment in favor of the defendant.  The plaintiffs appealed the decision, arguing that the issue of reasonableness should have been determined by a jury.

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One of the elements of a Maryland medical malpractice claim requires the plaintiff to establish that the defendant’s actions fell below the standard of care of a medical professional practicing under the same circumstances.  To prove this element, the plaintiff must present a qualified medical expert to testify that the defendant breached the standard of care.  In an October 2, 2020 case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered whether the testimony of the plaintiff’s medical expert was precluded by the “twenty-percent rule,” which generally bars experts who spend more than twenty percent of their professional activities directly involved in testifying as exert witnesses.

The plaintiff in the case was the surviving wife of the decedent, who had died from complications following back surgery.  She brought a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor who treated the decedent and the doctor’s practice group.  The plaintiff filed a certificate of qualified expert, as provided under the Maryland Health Care Malpractice Claims Act.  The certificate indicated that the plaintiff’s medical expert, an orthopedic surgeon, would testify that the defendant violated the standard of care by failing to recognize that the decedent was a high-risk patient and by not opting for alternative treatments to surgery.  The certificate also contained the required statement that no more than twenty percent of the expert’s activities were related to testifying as an expert witness.

At trial, the defendant argued that the plaintiff’s expert had not produced sufficient evidence of compliance with the twenty percent rule, and moved to disqualify him.  The trial court denied the motion, and the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff in excess of $900,000.  After trial, the defendant renewed its objection as to the expert.  The trial court reconsidered the issue, finding that it had erred in allowing the expert to testify, and entered judgment notwithstanding the verdict in favor of the defendant.  The plaintiff then appealed the ruling.

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In most Maryland medical malpractice cases, the negligence of a physician must be established by the testimony of an expert witness.  A rare exception to the general rule requiring expert testimony is made only when such medical negligence is obvious and within the common knowledge of an ordinary person.  In an August 24, 2020 case, the Court of Appeals of Maryland considered whether expert testimony was also required to establish the medical negligence of a non-party physician.  The defendant in the case raised the issue of a non-party physician’s medical negligence as part of his defense.

The plaintiff in the case was diagnosed with a kidney tumor and enlarged lymph node in August 2011.  The defendant surgically removed the plaintiff’s kidney, but did not remove the lymph node as planned because of its proximity to a vital blood vessel.  Following surgery, the plaintiff was treated by an oncologist, who ordered periodic CT scans of the lymph node.  In 2015, a biopsy was performed, which indicated that the lymph node was cancerous and had increased in size, rendering it inoperable.

The plaintiff brought medical malpractice claims against multiple physicians involved in his treatment, with the exception of his oncologist.  The plaintiff alleged that, had the defendants either removed the lymph node in the 2011 surgery, or alerted his oncologist that the lymph node was increasing in size, it could have been safely removed earlier.  At trial, the court permitted the jury to consider the issue raised by the defendants of the oncologist’s alleged medical negligence, although no expert testimony was presented to support the defendants’ assertions.  The jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendants, and the plaintiffs appealed.

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Expert testimony may be crucial to establish a medical malpractice claim in Maryland.  A party’s failure to identify a medical expert witness before the discovery deadline may result in sanctions.  In a July 7, 2020 Maryland medical malpractice case, the Court of Special Appeals reviewed the decision of a trial court to exclude the testimony of the plaintiff’s expert witness.  The plaintiff sought the appeal after judgment was granted in favor of the defendants.

The plaintiff in the case was involved in a car accident and suffered a neck strain.  She sought medical treatment from the defendant, a healthcare practice that included chiropractic services, and was treated by two doctors who were also defendants in the case.  The plaintiff brought a medical negligence suit against them, alleging that the chiropractic treatments performed by the doctors caused damage to a spinal cord stimulator that was previously implanted in her neck.

Before trial, the plaintiff had timely identified one expert medical witness by the required deadline.  At some point after the deadline, the plaintiff realized that her designated medical expert could not testify as to the causation element of her claim.  Almost two months after the deadline had passed, the plaintiff sought to add a board-certified neurosurgeon as an expert witness to testify as to causation.  The circuit court denied the request, and as a result, the plaintiff was unable to establish a prima facie case for medical malpractice.

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Informed consent is an important part of medical care.  If a health care provider fails to disclose certain information to the patient before a procedure or examination, they may face a Maryland medical malpractice claim.  In an August 6, 2020 case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered whether a new trial was necessary after the jury found in favor of the defendant on the claims for informed consent and medical negligence.

The plaintiff in the case sought treatment from the defendant for kidney and ureteral stones.  During the appointment, the defendant had the plaintiff completely disrobe.  The defendant then performed digital pelvic and rectal examinations, which had no medical value for the purpose of treating the plaintiff’s kidney stones.  The plaintiff felt violated and was later diagnosed with anxiety and PTSD.

The plaintiff filed suit against the defendant, alleging claims for negligence and failure to obtain informed consent.  The lower court granted summary judgment on the issue of informed consent only with respect to the elements of duty and breach.  The issues of causation and damages were then tried before a jury.  At trial, the jury was told only that the court had already ruled that the defendant did not obtain informed consent for the treatment of a kidney stone.  The jury ultimately found that the plaintiff was not damaged by the lack of consent.

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