Maryland Court Analyzes Statute of Limitations in Medical Malpractice Action

Coping with a serious medical condition can be difficult and time-consuming.  It may be crucial, however, to seek advice from a Maryland personal injury lawyer if you suspect medical malpractice.  In an August 14, 2018 case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered whether the plaintiff timely brought a medical malpractice action against a hospital that treated her.  The appeal was filed after the lower court granted summary judgment in favor of the hospital.

In 2008, the plaintiff in the case began experiencing symptoms she believed to be caused by a fungal infection found in semi-arid areas of the Southwest.  The plaintiff moved from Arizona to Maryland, where she sought treatment at a local hospital.  Her doctor opined that her symptoms were not due to a fungal infection, but were almost certainly the effects of lung cancer, which he asserted could only be treated with a partial lung lobotomy.

After removing part of her lung in 2009, lab analysts at the hospital determined that the plaintiff did not, in fact, have lung cancer.  Instead, the fungal infection suspected by the plaintiff was the cause of the symptoms she experienced and the lesion on her lungs.  Over four years later, the plaintiff filed a medical negligence claim against the hospital and lab.  The circuit court, however, found that the plaintiff failed to file her medical malpractice claim within three years of the statutory deadline.

Under Maryland law, a plaintiff must file a medical malpractice claim within three years from the date the wrong was discovered or reasonably should have been discovered, or five years from the time the injury was committed, whichever is earliest.  Accordingly, if the action is not barred by the three-year discovery limitation, the five-year deadline applies, regardless of whether the injury was reasonably discoverable or not.  A plaintiff is on notice for purposes of the three-year discovery rule at the time the plaintiff has or should have had knowledge, through reasonably diligent investigation, that an injury occurred as a result of medical treatment.

On appeal, the court noted that two days after the plaintiff’s surgery in 2009, her doctor informed her that the mass removed from her lung was not cancerous.  The hospital also provided her medical records, which showed that the nodule had been caused by a fungal infection.  Finally, the plaintiff learned from another hospital in early 2009 that although she had previous exposure to the fungus, she did not have an active infection.  The appeals court found that together, these events placed the plaintiff on notice that her cancer diagnosis was in error, that the doctor had performed an unnecessary surgery, and that the removal of a portion of her lunch was an irreparable injury.  The court therefore held that the three-year discovery limitation applied, and that the plaintiff’s suit, which was filed in 2014, was barred by law.

At Foran & Foran, P.A., our Maryland injury lawyers can assist individuals who have been hurt by the negligent or wrongful conduct of others.  We have helped plaintiffs pursue damages in wrongful death and medical negligence cases, as well as lawsuits arising out of automobile accidents and premises liability injuries.  To set up a free consultation with an attorney in our office, call (301) 441-2022 or submit the contact form on our website.

More Blog Posts:

Failure to Follow the Maryland Health Care Malpractice Claims Act May Lead to Dismissal of Medical Malpractice Action, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published April 18, 2018

Maryland Plaintiff Pursues Medical Malpractice Claim Arising from Hip-Replacement Surgery, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published August 10, 2017