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Court Discusses Requirements for Qualified Expert in Maryland Medical Malpractice Case

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.

Under the Maryland Health Care Malpractice Claims Act, a plaintiff must file a Certificate of Qualified Expert and Report signed by a qualified health care provider.  The health care provider must be qualified to testify that the defendant deviated from the standard of care, and that the deviation was the proximate cause of the alleged injury.  In sum, the health care provider must be a qualified expert that can attest to the defendant’s negligence and the element of causation.  If the plaintiff fails to file a certificate of a qualified expert, the Act provides that the plaintiff’s claim shall be dismissed.

On appeal, there was no dispute that the registered nurse was a health care provider licensed to practice registered nursing, and as such, qualified to testify as to the standard of care for registered nurses.  The issue for the court was whether a registered nurse was also a “qualified expert” under the Act.

The appeals court concluded that, under Maryland law, a registered nurse cannot make a medical diagnosis, and thus cannot determine a medical condition, nor the cause of such condition.  Because the Act requires the Certificate of Qualified Expert to attest, among other things, that the departure from standards of care is the proximate cause of the alleged injury, the court held that a registered nurse could not sign the certificate.  The appeals court therefore affirmed the ruling that the certificate was invalid.

If you believe your injury was caused by medical negligence, you may be able to recover damages for your losses.  At Foran & Foran, P.A., our Maryland medical malpractice attorneys understand that personal injuries can be financially burdensome.  We work tirelessly on behalf of negligence victims to get the compensation they deserve.  Request a free consultation to discuss your personal injury with a qualified attorney by calling Foran & Foran at (301) 441-2022 or contacting us online.

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