Articles Posted in Medical Negligence

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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In a Maryland medical malpractice lawsuit, testimony from expert witnesses can be crucial to explain scientific issues to a jury and establish or refute an element of negligence.  In a December 7, 2018 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered whether the testimony of the defendants’ expert witness was properly allowed into a jury trial in a medical malpractice action.  Ultimately, after hearing the testimony, as well as testimony from other experts, the jury found that the defendants were not negligent in providing medical care to the plaintiff.  The plaintiff subsequently filed an appeal, challenging the admissibility of the expert’s testimony.

The plaintiff in the case had undergone a surgical removal of her right lung.  A month later, she woke up with swelling and pain in her left leg and went to the emergency room.  The ER doctor examined the plaintiff and completed a CT scan, which confirmed extensive blood clots in both of the plaintiff’s legs.  As the plaintiff’s condition worsened, the hospital doctors concluded that her situation was too complex to handle without a vascular surgeon.  Because there was no vascular surgeon on-call at the hospital at that time, arrangements were made for her to see a vascular surgeon in Baltimore.

While the plaintiff was waiting for an ambulance, the hospital’s own vascular surgeon became available on-call.  Although he reviewed the plaintiff’s medical tests, he was not asked to examine the plaintiff and had no involvement in her treatment.  When the plaintiff finally arrived at the Baltimore hospital, her left leg could not be saved and was ultimately amputated.  The plaintiff filed a malpractice suit against the ER doctors and hospital, alleging that they did not do enough to treat her as she was waiting to be transported to Baltimore.

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Unlike general personal injury and negligence cases, Maryland medical malpractice actions are typically subject to the Health Care Malpractice Claims Act (Act), which has a few different procedural requirements.  In an August 2, 2018 case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland discussed the supplemental certificate of a qualified expert, which must be filed within 15 days after the deadline for discovery.  The plaintiff in the case had failed to file a supplemental certificate within the timeframe provided by the Act.  This ultimately led to the dismissal of her medical malpractice claim against the defendants.

The plaintiff had underwent gastrectomy surgery, which was performed by the defendant, a medical physician.  A few weeks after the surgery, the plaintiff was diagnosed with a hernia at the site of the gastrectomy.  During a procedure to repair the plaintiff’s condition, the defendant lacerated her aorta, causing her to lose 50 percent of her blood.  She experienced severe pain and went through several periods of rehabilitation.

The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice complaint against the doctor and hospital in November of 2015.  Pursuant to a scheduling order issued by the circuit court, discovery ended in January of 2017.  Pursuant to the Act, therefore, the plaintiff was required to submit a supplemental certificate of a qualified expert within 15 days.  When she failed to both file the certificate and ask for an extension, the defendants moved to dismiss her claim.  The plaintiff responded by opposing the motion and moving for a brief extension of time to file the required certificate.  The plaintiff explained that, because her attorney practiced primarily out of state and was unfamiliar with the statutory requirements, she had good cause to receive an extension of time.  The plaintiff also presented her supplemental certificate of an expert.  Nevertheless, finding that the plaintiff did not have good cause for an extension, the circuit court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss.

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In Maryland, malpractice actions against health care providers may be subject to Maryland’s Health Care Malpractice Claim Act (Act).  The Act provides procedures and requirements that govern Maryland medical malpractice lawsuits, some of which differ from other areas of personal injury law.  In a September 19, 2018 malpractice case, the defendant appealed the jury’s verdict and award of $250,000 in damages in favor of the plaintiffs.  One of the arguments presented by the defendant was that the plaintiffs failed to present a medical expert with sufficient qualifications, as required under the Act.

The defendant in the case was an OB/GYN practice that had provided prenatal care to the plaintiffs during a high-risk pregnancy.  After recurring complications, the plaintiffs’ baby was born prematurely, at twenty-four weeks.  Sadly, she died just two days after her birth.  The plaintiffs filed suit against the that provided prenatal care to the plaintiffs and their infant, alleging medical malpractice and wrongful death claims.  After a trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs on their wrongful death claim.  The defendant appealed the matter to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

The plaintiff in a Maryland medical malpractice must prove the following: (1) a duty requiring adherence to a standard of care; (2) a breach of the standard of care; (3) causation of the plaintiffs’ injury as a result of the breach; and (4) damages.  In virtually all medical malpractice claims, a plaintiff’s proof that the defendant breached the standard of care must be offered through the testimony of an expert witness.

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A successful Maryland medical malpractice lawsuit can help families recover compensation for the loss of a loved one.  In one such recent case, a Maryland jury awarded a total of ten millions dollars to the family members of a patient who had died after receiving medical treatment from the defendants.  Although the non-economic damages were reduced pursuant to Maryland law, the victim’s wife and his seven children succeeded on their medical malpractice wrongful death action.  The doctor and hospital defendants filed an appeal, which was considered by the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland in an opinion issued August 30, 2018.

In 2013, the victim in the case was taken to the hospital by ambulance, complaining of weakness in his arms and legs.  Blood tests revealed that he was suffering from acute rhabdomyolysis, a condition in which muscle fibers break down, releasing muscle proteins in the bloodstream.  During his hospital admittance, the victim experienced an elevated level of potassium in the blood, which his doctor identified as hyperkalemia.  The doctor ordered the hospital staff to administer several different medications to manage the issue.  Overnight, the victim began experiencing extreme abdominal pain and a drop in blood pressure.  He was transferred to the intensive care unit and later underwent extensive surgery, from which he never regained consciousness.

The victim’s family members filed suit against the doctor and the hospital, alleging medical malpractice and wrongful death.  Specifically, the plaintiffs argued that the doctor negligently administered a particular medication that damaged the victim’s intestines, ultimately causing his death.  After a trial, the jury found in favor of the plaintiffs.

Coping with a serious medical condition can be difficult and time-consuming.  It may be crucial, however, to seek advice from a Maryland personal injury lawyer if you suspect medical malpractice.  In an August 14, 2018 case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered whether the plaintiff timely brought a medical malpractice action against a hospital that treated her.  The appeal was filed after the lower court granted summary judgment in favor of the hospital.

In 2008, the plaintiff in the case began experiencing symptoms she believed to be caused by a fungal infection found in semi-arid areas of the Southwest.  The plaintiff moved from Arizona to Maryland, where she sought treatment at a local hospital.  Her doctor opined that her symptoms were not due to a fungal infection, but were almost certainly the effects of lung cancer, which he asserted could only be treated with a partial lung lobotomy.

After removing part of her lung in 2009, lab analysts at the hospital determined that the plaintiff did not, in fact, have lung cancer.  Instead, the fungal infection suspected by the plaintiff was the cause of the symptoms she experienced and the lesion on her lungs.  Over four years later, the plaintiff filed a medical negligence claim against the hospital and lab.  The circuit court, however, found that the plaintiff failed to file her medical malpractice claim within three years of the statutory deadline.

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The procedures for bringing a Maryland medical malpractice action can be complicated in some cases.  In a June 28, 2018 decision, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered whether the plaintiff could pursue a claim against his  doctor and hospital after the circuit court dismissed his case for failing to comply with requirements of the Maryland Health Care Malpractice Claims Act (Act).  The primary issue for the appeals court was whether the lower court’s dismissal was improper.

The plaintiff in the case underwent heart surgery and, following medical complications, was admitted to the intensive care unit.  In the ICU, he developed pressure ulcers, which required additional treatment.  He filed a claim against the defendants, alleging negligence in failing to implement procedures to prevent the ulcers and failing to treat them.

To initiate a claim under the Act, a plaintiff must first file his claim with the Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office and, within ninety days, submit a certificate of a qualified expert attesting to the alleged negligence.  The plaintiff can then waive arbitration and file suit in circuit court.  The certificate must meet specific requirements, one of which is to identify the allegedly negligent physician by name.  If the certificate is not filed or it is insufficient, the claim will be dismissed, unless a 90 day extension is granted for the plaintiff to submit a valid certificate.

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Knowing when to seek medical treatment can be a complicated and very personal decision.  Whether that decision has any effect on a health provider’s liability for negligence was the issue in an April 26, 2018 Maryland medical malpractice case before the Court of Special Appeals.  

The plaintiff in the case filed a medical malpractice claim against his physician, alleging that the physician negligently cut the plaintiff’s bile duct while surgically removing his inflamed gallbladder.  Before visiting the physician, the plaintiff had gone to the emergency room for stomach pains.  The plaintiff left, however, before the condition could be diagnosed, and he waited an additional 11 days before seeking treatment again from the defendant, who performed the surgery.

The defendant denied any negligence and further alleged, as a defense, that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent in failing to timely seek treatment for severe abdominal pains.  The jury ultimately found that the defendant was not negligent.  The plaintiff appealed, arguing that the defense was improper because any alleged contributory negligence occurred before he sought treatment from the defendant.

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If medical negligence is suspected in the death of a loved one, a Maryland wrongful death attorney may be consulted to investigate and identify potential legal claims and responsible parties.  In a tragic case before the Court of Special Appeals on May 18, 2018, the parents of an infant born via gestational carrier brought a negligence claim against the doctor and fertility clinic that facilitated and supervised the pregnancy.  The premature infant survived only 21 days before her death.

The plaintiffs in the case had entered into a gestational carrier contract with a woman who agreed to surrogate their child.  The woman failed to disclose her history of pregnancy complications, however, and the defendant-doctor proceeded with an embryo transfer without obtaining the woman’s prior medical records and clearance from the woman’s regular obstetrician.  After a successful embryo transfer, the woman became pregnant with the plaintiffs’ child.  Just 25 weeks into the pregnancy, the woman developed severe, life-threatening preeclampsia and underwent an emergency C-section delivery.  The infant succumbed to an infection and died not long after her birth.

Eventually, a review of the woman’s medical records revealed that during her last pregnancy, also as a gestational carrier, she developed preeclampsia and delivered the baby prematurely.  Medical experts testified that preeclampsia is known to worsen with each pregnancy, so the woman’s medical history should have disqualified her from being a gestational carrier.  After trial, the jury found the defendants liable for medical negligence.  The infant’s estate and the parents were awarded over $44 million in non-economic damages, although that amount was reduced by the statutory cap.

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The liability of certain parties may be a complicated issue in some Maryland medical malpractice cases.  In an April 27, 2018 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland examined the question of whether a medical group was liable for the alleged negligence of an employee other than the physician-defendant.  The jury in the case found that the physician was not negligent, but the medical group, through one of its agents, was negligent.  The medical group filed the current appeal.

The plaintiff in the case was diagnosed with a retinal tear in his eye and needed surgery.  When he suffered permanent vision loss after the operation, he brought suit against the eye clinic and the surgeon who operated on him.  Under the Maryland Health Care Act, negligence requires a duty owed by the defendant to the plaintiff, a violation of the standard of care that constitutes a breach of that duty, causation, and injury.  In addition, the plaintiff must file a certificate of a qualified expert and report attesting to the defendant’s departure from the standard of care and causation of the alleged injury.

The case went to trial, at which the plaintiff’s medical expert testified that in his opinion, the surgeon violated the standard of care.  When asked about the negligence of the eye clinic, the expert stated that if the surgeon was an employee of the eye clinic, it was his opinion that the eye clinic was also negligent.  The jury found that the surgeon did not deviate from the standard of care.  The jury further found that the agents and employees of the eye clinic were negligent and awarded $1,000,000 in damages to the plaintiff.

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