Articles Posted in Medical Negligence

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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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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