Maryland Court Considers Whether Dismissal Was Appropriate in Medical Malpractice Case

Unlike general personal injury and negligence cases, Maryland medical malpractice actions are typically subject to the Health Care Malpractice Claims Act (Act), which has a few different procedural requirements.  In an August 2, 2018 case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland discussed the supplemental certificate of a qualified expert, which must be filed within 15 days after the deadline for discovery.  The plaintiff in the case had failed to file a supplemental certificate within the timeframe provided by the Act.  This ultimately led to the dismissal of her medical malpractice claim against the defendants.

The plaintiff had underwent gastrectomy surgery, which was performed by the defendant, a medical physician.  A few weeks after the surgery, the plaintiff was diagnosed with a hernia at the site of the gastrectomy.  During a procedure to repair the plaintiff’s condition, the defendant lacerated her aorta, causing her to lose 50 percent of her blood.  She experienced severe pain and went through several periods of rehabilitation.

The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice complaint against the doctor and hospital in November of 2015.  Pursuant to a scheduling order issued by the circuit court, discovery ended in January of 2017.  Pursuant to the Act, therefore, the plaintiff was required to submit a supplemental certificate of a qualified expert within 15 days.  When she failed to both file the certificate and ask for an extension, the defendants moved to dismiss her claim.  The plaintiff responded by opposing the motion and moving for a brief extension of time to file the required certificate.  The plaintiff explained that, because her attorney practiced primarily out of state and was unfamiliar with the statutory requirements, she had good cause to receive an extension of time.  The plaintiff also presented her supplemental certificate of an expert.  Nevertheless, finding that the plaintiff did not have good cause for an extension, the circuit court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss.

On appeal, the court concluded that it was reasonable for the circuit court to find that ignorance of the law did not constitute good cause to allow for an extension in the case.  Rather, the more important issue was whether the court abused its discretion by depriving the plaintiff of any remedy at all because she failed to meet a statutory deadline.

The appeals court noted that the bright-line rule provided by the Act had the effect of forcing the insertion of a deadline for expert supplementation into every scheduling order in every medical malpractice case in which expert testimony is required.  The court explained that, when determining whether a plaintiff should be put out of court for failing to meet statutory scheduling deadlines, or whether to impose a lesser sanction, a court should not lose sight of their primary responsibilities to render justice and resolve disputes.  The appeals court remanded the matter for such a determination, finding that it was unclear whether the circuit court considered the issue.

At Foran & Foran, P.A., our personal injury attorneys are dedicated to assisting Maryland plaintiffs receive the compensation they deserve.  We have successfully litigated medical malpractice actions, car and semi-truck accident cases, and many other negligence claims on behalf of injury victims.  Discuss your legal issue in a free consultation with one of our compassionate lawyers by calling (301) 441-2022 or contacting us online.

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

Plaintiff Allowed Extension to Meet Procedural Requirements in Maryland Medical Malpractice Case, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published September 18, 2018