Plaintiff Files Maryland Negligence Action Against Organ Recovery Organization for Cancelled Transplant Surgery

In general, a person may be held liable for injuries caused by their negligence.  Statutory immunity creates an exception to the general rule.  Immunity may be asserted to defend against a Maryland negligence claim, as in an August 29, 2019 case.  The plaintiff in the case alleged that the defendant, an organ procurement organization, negligently packaged, preserved, and transported a kidney intended for her, thus resulting in personal injuries to her.  The issue was whether the defendant was immune from suit under two Maryland statutes that provide immunity for certain acts related to organ donation.

The plaintiff was on the waitlist of a hospital for a kidney transplant.  Two of the defendant’s employees harvested, preserved, and packaged a kidney for donation, which was then transported by courier service to the plaintiff’s hospital.  The hospital informed the plaintiff that the kidney was available for transplant and prepared her for surgery.  Upon examination of the kidney, however, the hospital determined that it was discolored, appeared to have freezer burn, and was not suitable for transplant.  As a result, the hospital cancelled the plaintiff’s surgery.

The plaintiff filed suit against the defendant for negligently processing the kidney.  The lower court subsequently dismissed the case, finding that the defendant was immune from suit pursuant to Maryland law.  The matter was then appealed to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

The two Maryland statutes at issue provided immunity for certain actions taken to recover, package, preserve, and transport donated organs and body parts.  The laws were enacted to encourage the establishment of organizations that facilitate organ and body part donation, in turn supporting the ever-increasing need for organ donation and medical research.  Specifically, pursuant to the Maryland immunity statutes, a person who complies with the applicable laws regulating the donation of organs and body parts, or attempts to do so in good faith, is not liable in a civil action, criminal, or administrative proceeding.

The appeals court ultimately concluded that the immunity granted under the statutes extended to the defendant’s actions.  The court reasoned that the activities of an organ procurement organization in recovering body parts for donation necessarily includes the packaging, preservation, and transportation of those body parts to their final destination.  Accordingly, the defendant, as an organ procurement organization, was entitled to immunity for engaging in such activities when done in good faith to comply with the law.  The court went on to hold that because the plaintiff did not allege that the defendant lacked good faith, or any facts that would support such an allegation, her complaint was properly dismissed.

The Maryland injury lawyers at Foran & Foran, P.A. have the experience and resources to litigate medical negligence cases and other personal injury actions.  We represent plaintiffs and their families in lawsuits arising out of careless medical treatment, car and motorcycle collisions, premises liability accidents, and more.  If you believe that your injury was the result of negligence, you may have legal recourse against those responsible.  Call (301) 441-2022 or contact Foran & Foran online to request a free consultation with one of our skilled attorneys.

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