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.

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An individual who has suffered an injury caused by negligence may have legal recourse against the liable party, as illustrated in an August 17, 2018 case.  The plaintiff in the case was inside a retail store when a motorist lost control of his car and crashed through the fire doors of the building.  The plaintiff suffered serious injuries in the accident, which resulted in the amputation of his leg.  Thereafter, the plaintiffs filed a Maryland negligence claim against the corporate owner of the nationwide store chain, arguing that it failed to take reasonable steps to protect customers against the foreseeable risk of vehicle-building crashes.  After trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff and awarded approximately 6.5 million in damages.

The defendant appealed to the Court of Special Appeals on several grounds, one of which was that the plaintiffs asserted facts that were not in evidence while cross-examining the defendant’s witnesses.  During discovery, the plaintiffs had obtained information from the defendant regarding three prior vehicle-into-building crashes that had occurred at the defendant’s other store locations between 2008 and 2013.  The plaintiff questioned the defendant’s corporate representative about those incidents, as well as a dozen other incidents the plaintiff had discovered.

In general, questions that assume facts that are not supported by evidence already admitted are objectionable.  The appeals court explained that the admissibility of the plaintiff’s questions regarding the prior vehicle-into-building crashes depended on whether these incidents had actually occurred.  Without any proof in evidence verifying that the incidents had occurred, the incidents were not relevant to the case, and therefore, were inadmissible.

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It may be necessary to take legal action against an insurance company or negligent driver after a car accident.  A Maryland car accident attorney can assist plaintiffs by properly filing the lawsuit.  An August 8, 2018 case before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland illustrates the importance of understanding these legal procedures.The plaintiffs in the case were injured when their car was rear-ended by another driver.  The police report correctly named the driver but combined the name of the driver’s mother with the name of the driver when identifying the owner of the vehicle.  In fact, the vehicle was co-leased by both the driver and his mother.  The plaintiffs filed negligence actions solely against the mother.  After the statute of limitations had expired, the plaintiffs filed motions to add the driver to the lawsuit.  The circuit court denied the motions, and the plaintiffs appealed.

In Maryland, most civil actions must be filed within three years from the date they accrue.  Failing to file a timely lawsuit, absent a statutory exception, bars the case from proceeding further.  Amendments to the complaint, including the addition of another defendant, are freely allowed if filed within the statute of limitations.  Once the statute of limitations has run, a party is generally barred from adding a new defendant to the complaint.  The “relation back” doctrine, however, permits an amendment adding a misnamed party if the factual situation remains essentially the same after the amendment as it was before, and the party had timely notice of his status as a defendant.

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The plaintiff has the burden to prove each element of a negligence claim arising out of lead paint exposure.  In many cases, the plaintiff in a Maryland personal injury case will have an expert testify to assist the jury in understanding the evidence or determining a fact at issue.  In a July 31, 2018 lead paint case, the Court of Appeals of Maryland considered whether a medical study cited by an expert provided a sufficient factual basis for his testimony.  The court also addressed whether an expert could offer an opinion on specific causation by relying on medical study data along with an individualized analysis of the plaintiff’s injuries.The plaintiff in the case sued the owners of a residential property, alleging that his injuries, including mental and attention deficits, were caused by exposure to deteriorating lead paint at the property.  At trial, the parties agreed that, due to the defendants’ negligence, the plaintiff was exposed to lead paint and that the exposure was the cause of the plaintiff’s elevated blood lead levels.  The remaining questions for the jury were whether the lead exposure caused an injury to the plaintiff and, if so, the amount of damages.  The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff and awarded approximately $1.3 million in damages.  The defendants subsequently filed an appeal, arguing that the plaintiff had not sufficiently proven that his alleged injuries resulted in any damages.  The plaintiff contended that the testimony of his expert witnesses satisfied his burden of proof.

In Maryland, an expert’s opinion must be based on facts that sufficiently indicate the use of reliable principles and methodology, which thus support the expert’s conclusions.  The expert must also have a rational explanation for how the factual data led to the expert’s conclusion. On appeal, the court examined the medical studies used by the plaintiff’s experts.  The first expert used medical studies that examined the relationship between ADHD and lead exposure.  The court found that the studies indicated an association between the two, but not causation.  This was significant, since it led the court to conclude that the expert’s testimony suffered from an analytical gap by overstating the known effects of lead exposure.  Lacking a scientific basis, the expert’s testimony was therefore inadmissible.

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Filing an insurance claim after a car accident can be overwhelming.  Many people seek guidance from a Maryland injury attorney to help them navigate through the process.  In a July 12, 2018 case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland decided a complex dispute between two insurance companies.  The primary issue was which company’s policy provided primary coverage to an injured claimant.

The claimant in the case was a passenger of an automobile that was involved in an accident.  The driver of the other vehicle that caused the accident was uninsured.  The claimant was insured by the plaintiff (Company A), while the owner of the automobile she rode in was insured by the defendant (Company B).  Both of the policies provided uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage and it was not disputed that UM/UIM coverage was available to the claimant.  However, the Company B policy had a UM/UIM limit of $100,000, while the limit under the Company A policy was $300,000.  The dispute was whether one policy provided primary UM/UIM coverage, or whether both policies provided coverage on a pro rata basis.

Company A argued that Company B was the primary carrier, so Company B must pay out its full policy limit of $100,000 before Company A has any obligation to cover the remaining amount.  Company B argued that the dispute must be resolved by looking to the language of the insurance contracts, which limited its obligation pro rata to coverage of other primary insurers.

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Most civil legal actions must be filed within prescribed periods, known as the statute of limitations and the statute of repose, or the plaintiffs may be barred from bringing suit.  However, there are exceptions, and in some cases, Maryland law may allow plaintiffs to pursue a their claim long after the allegedly negligent actions of the defendants.  In a June 25, 2018 Maryland wrongful death case, the Court of Appeals considered whether the plaintiffs could hold the defendants liable under an exception to the statute of repose.

The victim in the case needed access to the roof of a restaurant to repair an HVAC unit.  He placed a ladder on an exterior wall of the building that seemingly led to the roof, but instead, simply enclosed an open air area.  After mounting the wall, the plaintiff fell 20 feet over the other side, sustaining fatal injuries.  The plaintiffs filed suit against several defendants, including the owner and the manager of the shopping center in which the restaurant was located.  The building, however, was completed 22 years ago, which was beyond the 20 year limit imposed by the state of repose.  The defendants argued that the exception to the statute of repose asserted by the plaintiffs only applied in asbestos cases.

A statute of repose shields certain groups, designated by the legislature, from liability after a certain period of time.  Under Maryland’s statute of repose, a plaintiff is prohibited from bringing a claim for wrongful death resulting from an improvement to real property more than 20 years after the improvement.  There are exceptions to the statute listed in its subsections.  The first is a possession and control exception, which allows the plaintiff to bring an action against a defendant who was in actual possession and control of the property as owner, tenant, or otherwise when the injury occurred, despite the statute of repose.  While the other subsections of the statute relate to claims against manufacturers and suppliers of asbestos products, the possession and control exception makes no mention of them.

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The procedures for bringing a Maryland medical malpractice action can be complicated in some cases.  In a June 28, 2018 decision, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered whether the plaintiff could pursue a claim against his  doctor and hospital after the circuit court dismissed his case for failing to comply with requirements of the Maryland Health Care Malpractice Claims Act (Act).  The primary issue for the appeals court was whether the lower court’s dismissal was improper.

The plaintiff in the case underwent heart surgery and, following medical complications, was admitted to the intensive care unit.  In the ICU, he developed pressure ulcers, which required additional treatment.  He filed a claim against the defendants, alleging negligence in failing to implement procedures to prevent the ulcers and failing to treat them.

To initiate a claim under the Act, a plaintiff must first file his claim with the Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office and, within ninety days, submit a certificate of a qualified expert attesting to the alleged negligence.  The plaintiff can then waive arbitration and file suit in circuit court.  The certificate must meet specific requirements, one of which is to identify the allegedly negligent physician by name.  If the certificate is not filed or it is insufficient, the claim will be dismissed, unless a 90 day extension is granted for the plaintiff to submit a valid certificate.

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In some Maryland negligence cases, it is difficult to determine exactly how the victim’s personal injury occurred.  Legal recourse may nevertheless be possible under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur if the jury could infer that negligence on the part of the defendant was more probable than not responsible for the victim’s injury.  The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland addressed whether the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur applied in a June 25, 2018 case involving an escalator injury.

The plaintiff in the case was using the escalator in a department store in the mall.  She was injured when the escalator stopped suddenly.  The plaintiff brought suit against the companies which owned, operated, and/or maintained the escalator.  However, the lower court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment because the plaintiff failed to designate an expert witness on the issue of liability.  The plaintiff appealed, contending that, as she had met her burden to apply the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, expert testimony was unnecessary.

In Maryland, a plaintiff seeking to rely on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur must establish that the accident was one that does not ordinarily occur absent negligence, that the accident was caused by an instrumentality exclusively within the defendant’s control, and the accident was not caused by an act or omission of the plaintiff.  If the plaintiff can prove these elements, then the issue of negligence may be presented to a jury, which may then choose to infer a defendant’s negligence without the aid of any direct evidence.

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After a car accident, a claim for medical expenses and other damages is typically submitted to the insurance company.  If the insurance company delays or refuses to pay the claim, however, accident victims may be unsure of their legal recourse.  Many people choose to hire a Maryland car accident attorney to file an insurance claim on their behalf and represent them in any subsequent legal action.  A lack of legal knowledge and training could be detrimental in bringing a lawsuit against a big insurance company.

In a June 12, 2018 case, the plaintiff represented himself in a lawsuit against his insurance company to recover medical bills, lost wages, and other damages.  The plaintiff in the case had been involved in a motor vehicle accident with an uninsured motorist.  The plaintiff’s insurance company paid him the $2,500 policy limit of his personal injury protection benefits as a result of the accident.  Thereafter, the plaintiff sought additional coverage pursuant to his uninsured motorist policy for medical expenses he incurred approximately six months after the accident to treat whiplash.  The insurance company rejected the claim, and the plaintiff filed a lawsuit with the Maryland circuit court.

The plaintiff’s bad faith claim and claim for punitive damages were dismissed by the court, and the matter went to trial on the breach of contract claim.  At trial, the plaintiff attempted to introduce his medical records and bills without expert testimony.  The court sustained the insurance company’s objection, ruling that the plaintiff could not testify as to the medical opinions, diagnoses, or amount of the bills.  Consequently, and due to the lack of expert testimony, the court granted the insurance company’s motion for judgment, concluding that the plaintiff had failed to prove his claim that the insurance company had breached their contract.  The plaintiff then appealed to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

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Knowing when to seek medical treatment can be a complicated and very personal decision.  Whether that decision has any effect on a health provider’s liability for negligence was the issue in an April 26, 2018 Maryland medical malpractice case before the Court of Special Appeals.  

The plaintiff in the case filed a medical malpractice claim against his physician, alleging that the physician negligently cut the plaintiff’s bile duct while surgically removing his inflamed gallbladder.  Before visiting the physician, the plaintiff had gone to the emergency room for stomach pains.  The plaintiff left, however, before the condition could be diagnosed, and he waited an additional 11 days before seeking treatment again from the defendant, who performed the surgery.

The defendant denied any negligence and further alleged, as a defense, that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent in failing to timely seek treatment for severe abdominal pains.  The jury ultimately found that the defendant was not negligent.  The plaintiff appealed, arguing that the defense was improper because any alleged contributory negligence occurred before he sought treatment from the defendant.

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