Maryland Court Affirms Harsh Sanction for Failure to Comply with Scheduling Order in Medical Malpractice Case

In a recent medical malpractice case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered whether striking a standard of care expert as a sanction for non-compliance with scheduling and discovery orders was an abuse of discretion by the trial court. In Queensbury v. Rafiq (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Sept. 26, 2016), the plaintiff brought a negligence lawsuit against the defendant doctor, alleging that he failed to exercise reasonable care in treating the plaintiff and subjecting the plaintiff to chiropractic procedures, and that he failed to disclose the material risks and alternatives to the treatment. The court set deadlines for the plaintiff to identify his experts according to Maryland rules. After filing his initial designation of experts, all of the plaintiff’s experts withdrew and were replaced with new ones, although the filing deadline had passed. The plaintiff was allowed an extension of discovery deadlines and designating his experts, but he then canceled a scheduled deposition of his expert. The judge subsequently struck the plaintiff’s expert and granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiff brought an appeal.

In Queensbury, the scheduling order at issue was entered pursuant to Maryland Rule 2-504. Although the rule doesn’t expressly provide sanctions for scheduling order violations, Maryland courts have held that a judge may issue sanctions for such violations, including in medical malpractice claims. The court may evaluate several factors in considering discovery sanctions in civil cases, such as whether the violation was technical or substantial, the timing of the violation, the reason for the violation, the degree of prejudice to the parties respectively offering and opposing the evidence, whether the resulting prejudice might be cured by a continuance, and the overall desirability of a continuance.

On appeal, the court found that the trial judge applied the aforementioned factors and based her findings on the fact that there had been no deposition of a standard of care expert, despite her extensions of the deadlines for the discovery and designation of experts. In addition, the judge considered the prejudice to the parties, finding that the dispute, which had been pending for over a year in discovery, could not be cured by a postponement. The appeals court accordingly affirmed the decision to strike the plaintiff’s expert. As a result, given the plaintiff’s failure to designate a standard of care expert, the plaintiff could not provide expert testimony regarding negligence and causation. The appeals court therefore upheld the lower court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant.

If you have suffered serious complications from a medical procedure or treatment, you may be able to recover your losses by pursuing a claim in court. The Maryland medical malpractice attorneys at Foran & Foran, P.A. have helped many victims of negligence recover compensation in a range of personal injury cases. To discuss your legal matter with one of our professionals, call Foran & Foran, P.A. at (301) 441-2022 or contact us online and schedule a consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Court Rules Expert Testimony Required to Establish Plaintiff’s Claim for Lack of Informed Consent, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published August 18, 2016

Maryland Court Reviews Evidence of Causation in Medical Malpractice Appeal, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published October 11, 2016

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