Maryland Plaintiff Brings Dental Malpractice Action for Permanently Numb Tongue

In Maryland, medical malpractice lawsuits are subject to the statute of limitations, which provides the deadline by which an action must be filed, or it may be dismissed as untimely. There are some exceptions to the general rule, however, as explained by the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland in an August 6, 2021 opinion.

The plaintiff in the case had his wisdom teeth removed on May 29, 2015.  The following morning, the plaintiff realized that he had no sensation in his tongue.  The plaintiff immediately contacted the dental center to address the issue and scheduled an appointment with the doctor who had performed the surgery.  The plaintiff alleged that, at the June 11 appointment, the doctor told him that it could take up to one year for his tongue to regain full sensation, but that, with time and the use of pain medication, his tongue would get better.

After consulting with an attorney, on July 17, 2018, the plaintiff filed a claim against the doctor and the dental center, asserting that the doctor had severed the plaintiff’s lingual nerve during the extraction of his wisdom teeth.  The circuit court, finding that the injury accrued on June 11, 2015, dismissed the action as barred by the statute of limitations.

In Maryland, a medical malpractice action must be brought either five years from the date the injury was committed, or three years from the date the injury was discovered, whichever deadline is earliest.  Under the discovery rule, the limitations period is triggered when the patient discovers, or should have discovered, that he has a cause of action.  This requires, in addition to the notice of injury, some notice that the defendant was negligent.

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the three-year limitations period started when he did not regain feeling in his tongue.  The plaintiff further alleged that the doctor’s deceiving statements regarding the full extent and cause of the injury had delayed his discovery of the doctor’s potential negligence.

After reviewing the evidence in the case, the court agreed that there were several factors that would not have placed the plaintiff on notice of the injury until well after the initial surgery.  The court pointed to the consent form, which stated that numbness of the tongue may persist for several days, months, or in remote cases, permanently.  The court also noted that the doctor indicated to the plaintiff in two post-operative appointments that his tongue would heal with time.

Finally, the appeals court explained that while the plaintiff may have suspected that the doctor caused the numbness, the evidence indicated that he did not know that the doctor might have committed malpractice until sometime after he consulted with an orthodontist in December of 2015.  As such, the court reversed the dismissal.

If you believe your injury was caused by medical negligence, a Maryland injury attorney can help you evaluate the options for recovering compensation.  At Foran & Foran, P.A., we represent victims in legal claims arising out of medical malpractice, auto accidents, negligent property maintenance, and more.  Contact us online or call (301) 441-2022 to request a free consultation with one of our experienced lawyers.

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