The Maryland Health Care Malpractice Claims Act (Health Care Act) provides statutory procedures that apply to certain legal claims involving health care and medical treatment. Recently, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland decided whether a lower court correctly ruled that the plaintiff failed to follow rules set out in the Act. The plaintiff filed a negligence claim in circuit court against the owner of a rehabilitation center where she received treatment. The defendant moved to dismiss, arguing that the plaintiff did not submit her claims for arbitration before filing in the circuit court, as required by the Health Care Act. The court granted the motion, which led to the plaintiff’s appeal.
The case arose out of the plaintiff’s stay at a nursing rehabilitation center for her recovery and physical rehabilitation following back surgery. The plaintiff alleged that the mattress on her bed came loose and slid off the frame, causing her to fall to the ground. A nurse refused to help the plaintiff stand but instead placed her in a mechanical lift in order to return her to the bed. The plaintiff claimed that the nurse prematurely released the net, causing her to drop to the floor. The plaintiff called an ambulance and was eventually moved back into her bed by an EMT.
The Health Claims Act provides that all claims, lawsuits, and actions by a person against a health care provider for a medical injury must be submitted to the Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office for arbitration before maintaining a tort action in the circuit court. A medical injury under the Act is an injury arising or resulting from rendering or failure to render health care. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the Health Claims Act does not apply to her claim because her injuries were not caused by the defendant’s rendering or failure to render health care, but instead they were sustained as a result of ordinary negligence, rather than medical malpractice.
In reviewing the case, the appeals court held that the plaintiff’s fall from the lift machine could be considered a medical injury. The court reasoned that the machine required a level of training beyond that of an average person, and it was in fact operated by a trained nurse, whose job was to provide the elevated level of care sought by the plaintiff when she chose the defendant’s facility for her recovery. The plaintiff’s allegations of ordinary negligence on the part of the defendant could, therefore, constitute medical malpractice, which in turn required the claim to be filed with the ADR Office first. In affirming the dismissal, the appeals court also noted that the Health Care Office possesses the authority to determine whether a claim in a borderline case constitutes a medical injury subject to the Health Claims Act.
Enlisting the services of a personal injury attorney may help you in deciding whether to file a negligence or health care claim. At Foran & Foran, P.A., our medical malpractice lawyers have the experience and resources necessary to advise Maryland plaintiffs in a range of injury cases. To consult with one of our accident attorneys, contact Foran & Foran, P.A. by phone at (301) 441-2022 or through our website.
More Blog Posts:
Maryland Court of Special Appeals Upholds Majority of Million-Dollar Jury Verdict in Medical Malpractice Case, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published December 9, 2015
Maryland Court Reviews Evidence of Causation in Medical Malpractice Appeal, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published October 11, 2016