Articles Posted in Medical Negligence

Personal injuries arising out of negligent heath care providers may be subject to the Maryland Health Care Malpractice Claims Act.  A Maryland medical malpractice attorney can guide you through the requirements and deadlines of the Act.  In a June 17, 2020 case, the Court of Special Appeals considered whether the plaintiff’s delay in filing a medical malpractice complaint against a nursing home was grounds for dismissal.

The plaintiff in the case was admitted to the nursing facility for rehabilitation following his hip replacement surgery.  He alleged that he developed pressure ulcers in several areas of his body during his stay there, which became infected and ultimately led to a below-the-knee amputation of his right leg.

Almost three years after he left the nursing facility, the plaintiff initiated an action under the Maryland Health Care Malpractice Claims Act.  The defendant waived arbitration, which triggered the 60-day window in which the plaintiff must file his complaint in circuit court.  The plaintiff missed the deadline, however, and did not file the complaint until five months later.  The defendant moved to dismiss, arguing that the delay was inherently prejudicial.  The circuit court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

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The Maryland Health Care Malpractice Claims Act governs medical malpractice actions in Maryland.  To file a claim under the Act, a plaintiff must follow the requirements provided therein.  In a May 26, 2020 case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland analyzed whether the plaintiff had complied with the certification requirements under the Act.  The issue came before the court on appeal by the plaintiff, who had filed a negligence claim against a hospital.

The plaintiff in the case alleged that he suffered injuries as a result of the defendant’s employees negligently dropping him into a chair during the course of his recovery from back surgery.  In accordance with the Act’s requirements, the plaintiff filed a Certificate of Qualified Expert and Report.  The certificate was completed and signed by a registered nurse.  The plaintiff then filed an election to waive arbitration and proceed in circuit court, which was granted.

In circuit court, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss based on the ground that the certificate was deficient because it was signed by a registered nurse, and not by a medical doctor.  The trial court agreed with the defendant, finding that the certificate was deficient and dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint.  The plaintiff brought the subsequent appeal.

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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 Maryland, family members may bring a wrongful death action against a defendant whose negligence caused the death of their loved one.  The Maryland wrongful death statute allows the plaintiffs to recover economic and non-economic monetary damages resulting from their loss.  In a November 1, 2019 case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed the jury’s award of damages to a plaintiff who had prevailed in her wrongful death action against the defendant.

The case arose from the death of the plaintiff’s daughter’s in 2013.  The plaintiff filed a wrongful death action against the medical providers who treated her daughter, including the defendant.  Following a trial, the jury found the defendant liable for the wrongful death of the plaintiff’s twenty-two-year-old daughter.  The jury awarded the plaintiff $500,000 in non-economic damages and $500,000 in economic damages for the loss of her daughter’s services.  The defendant subsequently appealed the jury’s award of economic damages.

The specific issue on appeal was whether the plaintiff had sufficiently established her damages claim for the loss of her daughter’s household services.  The court confirmed that in a Maryland wrongful death action, a covered beneficiary may recover for both economic and non-economic damages.  After reviewing Maryland case law and other legal authority, the Court of Special Appeals went on to present a three-part rule for determining when a beneficiary in a wrongful death action may recover economic damages for the loss of household services.

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Negligent nursing home care may cause serious injuries or even death, as well as emotional pain for the victim’s family.  Many nursing care facilities in Maryland require patients to execute agreements upon admittance in which they agree to arbitrate any future legal claims against the facility. In a June 27, 2019 Maryland wrongful death case, the validity of such an arbitration agreement was decided by the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

The plaintiff’s father and the decedent in the case had resided at the defendant’s nursing care facility before his death.  The day before her father was admitted to the facility, the plaintiff executed an admission contract on his behalf.  The contract required that all disputes arising out of a patient’s stay at the facility be submitted to mediation, and if not resolved through mediation, be submitted to an arbitration process.

Following her father’s death, the plaintiff filed a negligence suit against the defendants in circuit court, alleging that while in the care of the defendant’s facility, her father developed serious health concerns, including bed sores and gangrene, as a result of inadequate medical care.  The plaintiff further alleged that these conditions were caused by the defendant’s negligence, and that the defendant was responsible for causing her father’s death.  After the lower court granted the defendant’s motion to compel arbitration, the plaintiff filed an appeal.

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In general, a person may be held liable for injuries caused by their negligence.  Statutory immunity creates an exception to the general rule.  Immunity may be asserted to defend against a Maryland negligence claim, as in an August 29, 2019 case.  The plaintiff in the case alleged that the defendant, an organ procurement organization, negligently packaged, preserved, and transported a kidney intended for her, thus resulting in personal injuries to her.  The issue was whether the defendant was immune from suit under two Maryland statutes that provide immunity for certain acts related to organ donation.

The plaintiff was on the waitlist of a hospital for a kidney transplant.  Two of the defendant’s employees harvested, preserved, and packaged a kidney for donation, which was then transported by courier service to the plaintiff’s hospital.  The hospital informed the plaintiff that the kidney was available for transplant and prepared her for surgery.  Upon examination of the kidney, however, the hospital determined that it was discolored, appeared to have freezer burn, and was not suitable for transplant.  As a result, the hospital cancelled the plaintiff’s surgery.

The plaintiff filed suit against the defendant for negligently processing the kidney.  The lower court subsequently dismissed the case, finding that the defendant was immune from suit pursuant to Maryland law.  The matter was then appealed to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

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Bringing a Maryland personal injury lawsuit against certain parties, such as police officers and emergency responders, may require proof of more than simple negligence.  If the defendants are entitled to statutory immunity, the plaintiff must demonstrate gross negligence in order to hold them liable in some cases.  In an August 16, 2019 Maryland wrongful death case, the Court of Appeals reviewed the record to determine whether the evidence was sufficient to establish gross negligence on the part of the defendants, who were city fire department paramedics.

The defendants in the case had responded to a 911 call for a reported chest pain emergency.  After assessing the decedent’s condition, they transported him to the hospital shortly thereafter.  While waiting in the emergency room, the decedent lost consciousness.  He was taken to another room and received treatment from the hospital staff, but unfortunately, never regained consciousness.  The plaintiffs filed a wrongful death suit against the defendants, alleging that they were negligent in providing medical assistance to the decedent.

The trial court determined that the Maryland Fire and Rescue Company Act granted the defendants civil immunity in the absence of any willful or grossly negligent act.  Accordingly, the issue at trial was whether the defendants acted in a grossly negligent manner.  The jury found that they had and awarded the plaintiffs approximately 3.7 million dollars in damages.  The matter was appealed twice and came before the Maryland Court of Appeals.

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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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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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