Maryland Arbitration Award Affirmed Due to Defendant’s Failure to Follow Procedural Requirements for Appeal

The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland recently reviewed an appeal involving the arbitration of a medical malpractice claim in Castles of Love Assisted Living Homes, LLC v. Blanks (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Mar. 2, 2016). The issue on appeal was whether the defendant satisfied procedural rules when it sent notice of its rejection of a health care arbitration award by regular mail instead of certified mail.

In Castles of Love Assisted Living Homes, LLC, the plaintiff was a resident of a nursing home facility from 2008 until her death. The plaintiff filed a professional negligence complaint against the facility, alleging that she had sustained numerous injuries and was rendered mute due to an infection from a feeding tube while at the facility. The case was referred to arbitration pursuant to the Health Care Malpractice Claims Act. The arbitration panel found the facility liable for the plaintiff’s injuries and awarded $25,000 in non-economic damages as well as her arbitration costs.

The defendant sent a letter rejecting the panel’s findings and recommendations by certified mail to the Health Care Arbitration Office (HCAO), and a copy by regular mail to the plaintiff’s counsel. The defendant also attempted to vacate the award by filing a motion with the circuit court, which was denied because there was no open case. The HCAO then concluded that the defendant was bound by its decision because the defendant failed to properly serve the plaintiff with its rejection letter. The HCAO then filed a motion with the circuit court to confirm the award, which was granted. The defendant subsequently appealed the circuit court’s ruling.

In Maryland, the Health Care Malpractice Claims Act requires the submission of medical malpractice claims to an arbitration panel prior to the bringing of an action in court. If a plaintiff wishes to reject an award and proceed with the cause of action in court, a notice of rejection must be filed with the HCAO. Failing to file a notice of rejection permits the arbitration award to become final and binding.

On appeal, the court noted that it is clear the Health Care Malpractice Claims Act requires two separate steps before judicial review. First, the notice of rejection must be filed with the Director and the arbitration panel and served on the other parties within 30 days after the award is served upon the rejecting party. Although other parties may be served by regular U.S. mail, the defendant must serve the notice of rejection on plaintiff’s counsel by certified mail. Second, the aggrieved party must file an action in court to nullify the award and file a copy of the action with the Director.

The court of appeals found that despite the fact that the defendant’s notice was timely filed, the defendant did not properly serve the plaintiff with notice of its rejection. The court went on to state that occasional acceptance of notice that substantially but not strictly complies with the rules should not be used to ignore the plain language of the rule. As a result, the plaintiff’s award was affirmed.

If you or a family member have been the victim of medical malpractice in Maryland, pursuing compensation from those responsible may be a beneficial decision for you. At the law firm of Foran & Foran, P.A., our skilled personal injury attorneys can represent individuals who have been hurt as a result of medical treatment, car accidents, and more. To discuss your claim with one of our compassionate lawyers, contact Foran & Foran, P.A. at (301) 441-2022 or online.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Court of Special Appeals Rules in Medical Malpractice Case, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published June 24, 2015

Maryland Court Allows Plaintiff to Bring Wrongful Death Suit Based on Same Conduct as Prior Personal Injury Case, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published August 21, 2015

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