Maryland Court Upholds Jury Verdict in Favor of Plaintiff in Medical Negligence Action

Family members may have legal recourse against someone who negligently caused their loved one’s serious injury or death.  In a May 2, 2017 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff in a medical malpractice and wrongful death action.  After her son committed suicide, the plaintiff filed suit against his doctor and the hospital, alleging that they had negligently discharged her son from involuntary inpatient psychiatric treatment and caused his death by suicide.

Following the trial, a jury awarded the plaintiff $6,112 in economic damages and $2,300,000 in non-economic damages, which were capped at $695,000, the statutory limit on non-economic damages imposed by Maryland law.  Despite the jury’s verdict, however, the trial court entered a judgment notwithstanding the verdict in favor of the defendants.  The plaintiff appealed.

In order to prevail on a claim of medical malpractice in Maryland, a plaintiff must prove the applicable standard of care, that the standard of care was violated by the defendant, and that the violation proximately caused the injury for which damages are sought.  The duty of care in a medical malpractice action is to exercise the degree of care or skill expected of a reasonably competent health care provider in the same or similar circumstances.  Generally, the nature and scope of the duty owed and whether the standard of care was breached is proven by expert testimony.

On appeal, the primary question for the court was whether there was evidence from which the jury could have concluded that the doctor breached the standard of care by discharging the decedent, and whether that was a proximate cause of his death the following day.  The court held that from the testimony of the plaintiff’s expert medical witness, a reasonable jury could find that the appropriate standard of care required the doctor to keep the decedent in the hospital until his symptoms of psychosis were significantly reduced by medication.  The court also found that there was sufficient evidence that, at the time the defendant had discharged the decedent, his symptoms had not been reduced by his medication, which he started taking three days before.  In addition, the evidence was sufficient to conclude that the decedent’s premature discharge from the hospital was a proximate cause of his death.

Accordingly, the court held that the trial court erred by granting the defendant’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, and it reversed the judgment.  However, since the lower court did not rule on the defendants’ alternative motion for a new trial, the matter was remanded for disposition of the remaining motion.

The Maryland injury attorneys at Foran & Foran, P.A. can represent plaintiffs in a range of negligence cases, including claims arising out of medical malpractice and careless driving.  If you are seeking comprehensive legal advice, schedule an appointment with one of our skilled lawyers by calling (301) 441-2022 or submitting our online contact form.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Court of Special Appeals Rules in Medical Malpractice Case, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published June 24, 2015

Maryland Court of Special Appeals Reviews Standard of Care in Medical Malpractice Case, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published March 31, 2016

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