Plaintiff Allowed Extension to Meet Procedural Requirements in Maryland Medical Malpractice Case

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.

In the case, the circuit court had concluded that the certificate filed by the plaintiff was deficient, as it failed to identify the defendants by name.  The circuit court also denied the plaintiff’s request for a ninety day extension to file a proper certificate, and dismissed his claim.  Following subsequent procedural attempts, the matter eventually came before the appeals court.  On appeal, one of the arguments asserted by the plaintiff was that the circuit court erred in failing to grant him an extension and in dismissing his claim.

The appeals court looked to the plain language of the Act, which provided that in lieu of dismissing the claim, the court shall grant an extension of no more than ninety days for filing the required certificate if the statute of limitations has expired, no more than 180 days had passed since filing the claim, and the plaintiff’s failure to file the certificate was neither willful nor negligent.  The court interpreted the statute as providing a mandatory ninety day extension if the conditions were met.  Finding such circumstances existed in the plaintiff’s case, the court held that the plaintiff should have automatically been granted an extension to file a proper certificate.  The court therefore vacated the dismissal and remanded the case to continue proceedings.

At Foran & Foran, P.A., our dedicated Maryland attorneys can assist negligence victims in pursuing a medical malpractice action against their doctor or hospital.  We have the legal experience necessary to handle a range of personal injury claims.  Schedule a free consultation to discuss your case by calling (301) 441-2022 or contacting us online website.

More Blog Posts:

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

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

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