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Maryland Court Allows Plaintiffs to Proceed with Medical Malpractice Claim for Birth Injuries

In Maryland, expert testimony is generally required to establish a medical malpractice claim.  In a May 26, 2021 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered whether evidence of negligence, which included opinions of two medical experts, was sufficient to survive a summary judgment motion in a medical malpractice case.

The plaintiff in the case was receiving prenatal care from the defendants during her pregnancy.  At 38 weeks, she reported decreased fetal movement at a routine prenatal visit.  She was referred to the hospital for further evaluation, where she received care from a delivery nurse and physician.  Ultimately, the physician diagnosed her with gestational hypertension and discharged her the same day.  Four days later, the plaintiff was admitted to the hospital with high blood pressure and had an emergency Caesarean section.  Her son was born with multiple health conditions, including a brain disorder.

The plaintiffs filed medical malpractice claims, alleging negligence against the doctor for failing to deliver her son four days earlier, against the nurse for failing to initiate the hospital’s chain of command policy, and against the hospital.  After the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the nurse and hospital, the plaintiffs sought review of the decision on appeal.

In order to establish a claim based on medical malpractice, a plaintiff must present evidence of the standard of care, a breach of that standard of care, and an injury caused by that breach.  On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that the opinions of their experts clearly established that the nurse had violated the standard of care by failing to activate the chain of command pursuant to the hospital’s policy.  The hospital’s chain of command policy was to be initiated when any of its health care practitioners, including nurses, believed that implementing a physician’s order may potentially have an adverse effect on a patient.

The plaintiffs provided the deposition testimony of an expert who opined that the nurse knew, or should have known, that the medical standard for a patient with the plaintiff’s conditions was to admit her for delivery.  The expert went on to state her opinion that the nurse had therefore violated the standard of care by not questioning the doctor’s decision to discharge the plaintiff, and by failing to act pursuant to the hospital’s chain of command policy.

After reviewing the evidence of record, the appeals court agreed with the plaintiffs and reversed summary judgment.  The appeals court concluded that when expert testimony establishes the requirements under the standard of care, and that the injury would have been prevented if the standard of care had not been violated, the evidence is sufficient for a jury to determine causation.  The court accordingly remanded the case for further proceedings.

If you have questions about medical negligence, you can seek advice from a Maryland personal injury lawyer.  At Foran & Foran, P.A., our experienced attorneys can provide guidance and legal representation to victims of negligence.  We handle personal injury cases arising out of auto and motorcycle collisions, medical malpractice, and other accidents.  Call (301) 441-2022 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

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