Maryland Plaintiff Successfully Appeals to Bring Some Negligence Claims Against Nursing Home

Although the Maryland Health Care Malpractice Claims Act (HCA) covers most injuries arising out of medical malpractice, some injuries seemingly overlap with ordinary negligence.  In a January 19, 2018 case, the Court of Appeals of Maryland examined whether claims for negligence and other related causes of action alleged a medical injury within the meaning of the HCA.

In the case, the plaintiff and her husband sued a nursing care facility for injuries the plaintiff suffered during her stay there.  The plaintiff’s injuries were caused when she fell from her bed, allegedly caused by the defendant’s failure to properly secure her mattress to the bed frame.  A mechanical lift was used to raise the plaintiff from the floor, but the lift released and dropped her again onto the floor instead of returning her to the bed.

The lawsuit was dismissed by the trial court for failure to file with the Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolute Office (ADR Office) first.  The plaintiffs appealed the decision.  The basic question on appeal was whether the plaintiffs’ claims were medical injuries.  If the claims alleged were found to be medical injuries within the HCA, they were required to file them in the ADR Office as a condition precedent to their court action.  If not, they were free to bring their claims as a non-medical negligence case in the circuit court.

Under the HCA, a plaintiff alleging a medical injury committed by a health care provider and more than $30,000 in damages must first file her claims with the ADR Office.  The HCA defines a “medical injury” as an injury arising or resulting from rendering or failure to render health care.  In addition, the plaintiff must also file an expert certification within 90 days of initially submitting a claim.  Once the expert certification and report requirements are satisfied, either party can elect to proceed in circuit court.

The appeals court noted that an injury in a hospital setting does not always dictate that a claim will be covered by the HCA.  For the HCA to apply, the cause of the injury must have been a breach by the medical provider, in its professional capacity, of the duty to exercise professional skill in rendering or failing to render medical care.  The court concluded that since the plaintiff did not allege that her fall from the bed resulted from the rendering of medical care, there is no professional standard of care to apply.  Accordingly, it was a claim for ordinary negligence, which falls outside the scope of the HCA.

With regard to the second fall from the mechanical lift, however, an examination of medical procedures was necessary to determine negligence. Therefore, the court held the claims related to the mechanical lift should have been filed in the ADR Office.  Although the plaintiff was barred from bringing her medical malpractice claims due to the three-year statute of limitations, she could pursue her non-medical claims in circuit court.

At the Maryland firm of Foran & Foran, P.A., our  medical malpractice attorneys assist victims of negligence in bringing suit against the responsible person or business.  We also handle personal injury cases arising out of car crashes, accidents caused by dangerous property conditions, and more.  To discuss your case with a skilled injury lawyer, call Foran & Foran at (301) 441-2022 or contact us online and make an appointment.

More Blog Posts:

Court Considers Whether Injury Claim Falls Under Maryland Health Care Act, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published June 2, 2017

Maryland Court Allows Evidence of Superseding Causation in Medical Malpractice Case, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published June 2, 2016