Court Evaluates Certificate of Qualified Expert in Maryland Medical Malpractice Appeal

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.

Under the Act, a Certificate of Qualified Expert must be filed within 90 days of a health care claim and meet certain requirements.  One of these requirements is that the expert must have had experience, practiced, or taught medicine in the defendant’s specialty or a related field of health care.  If the defendant is board certified, the expert must be board certified in the same specialty as the defendant, or a related specialty.

The plaintiff contended that although the expert was not certified in the same specialty as the defendant, he was certified in a related specialty.  The appeals court agreed that while it was not necessary for the certifying expert to be the same kind of health care provider as the defendant, a related specialty must overlap in the treatment or procedure in a given case.  As such, the question on appeal was whether there was any overlap in the treatment provided by a cardiovascular surgeon (the expert) and the treatment provided by a cardiologist (the defendant) with respect to the post-operative care provided to a person in the position of the patient.

The court determined that their respective fields did not overlap, as the defendant did not practice surgery, and the expert did not have experience as a cardiologist treating the post-operative conditions of the patient.  As such, the Certificate did not meet the statutory requirements and the plaintiff’s claim was dismissed.

If you have been injured as the result of a botched surgery or medical procedure, seeking assistance from a Maryland medical malpractice attorney is critical.  At Foran & Foran, P.A., we have the knowledge and experience to represent plaintiffs in lawsuits against their health care providers and hospitals.  Our dedicated team of lawyers are capable of handling any personal injury claim, from car crashes to slip and fall accidents.  Schedule a free legal consultation by calling Foran and Foran at (301) 441-2022 or contacting us online.