Maryland Court Affirms Summary Judgment Against Plaintiff in Medical Malpractice Case

The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland recently reviewed a trial court’s decision to grant summary judgment in favor of the defendants in a medical malpractice action. In Hannon v. Mercy Med. Ctr., Inc. (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Jan. 11, 2016), the plaintiffs brought a wrongful death and survival action against the doctor and hospital that treated the plaintiff’s father prior to his death. Three months before trial, the court allowed the plaintiffs’ counsel to withdraw. The plaintiffs were unable to retain new counsel less than a month later. When the plaintiffs were unable to secure their sole expert witness to testify at trial, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that the plaintiffs could not make a prima facie case for medical malpractice. The circuit court granted the motion, and the plaintiffs appealed.

In Hannon, the plaintiffs designated a board-certified internist as their sole expert witness. The expert’s deposition was taken, and the plaintiffs informed the defendants that they intended to take a videotaped deposition of their expert for use at trial. However, two weeks before trial, the plaintiffs cancelled the expert’s deposition. On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that the discovery deposition was sufficient to establish their case and survive summary judgment. The defendants responded that the plaintiffs could not establish their case at trial without any expert testimony.

In order to prove their claim for medical malpractice, the plaintiffs must establish that the defendant-physician owed a duty to the victim to conform to the standard of care accepted in the local medical community, the defendant’s conduct breached that standard of care, the victim’s injuries were caused by the defendant’s actions, and the plaintiffs suffered damages. In Maryland, it is well established that plaintiffs in a complex medical malpractice action must introduce expert testimony to prove a breach of the standard of care and causation. Such testimony is necessary because professional standards are often beyond the knowledge of the average layman juror.

On appeal, the court noted that the deceased person had a history of complex medical problems prior to the alleged negligence. The court found that the propriety of the defendant’s medical treatment would not be within the knowledge of the average layperson, nor would any causal connection be a common understanding. As a result, the court took the position that expert witness testimony at trial on the standard of care and causation was essential to prove the plaintiffs’ case. Accordingly, the summary judgment was affirmed.

If you or someone you love has been a victim of medical malpractice, it is important to obtain qualified and experienced legal representation. At the Maryland firm of Foran & Foran, P.A., our injury attorneys provide comprehensive guidance to individuals in a variety of negligence and personal injury matters, including auto accidents, premises liability, medical malpractice, and other cases. Contact our accident attorneys by phone at (301) 441-2022 or online to learn more about your legal options.

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 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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