Court Finds Post-Mortem Misconduct Falls under Medical Malpractice Umbrella and Must Comply with Applicable Procedural Requirements

Earlier this month, the Texas Supreme Court issued a written opinion broadly interpreting what constitutes a medical malpractice claim, holding that a hospital’s alleged fraud in obtaining consent to perform a private autopsy was subject to the additional procedural requirements of a medical malpractice action. In the case, Christus Health Gulf Coast v. Carswell, the court dismissed the plaintiffs’ claim because it was filed after the applicable two-year statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits.

ContractThe Facts of the Case

The Carswells alleged that the defendant nursing home was negligent in the care it provided to their loved one, which ultimately led to his untimely death in 2004. These claims were filed about a year after the death of their loved one, in compliance with the state’s medical malpractice statute.

In addition, the family claimed that the nursing facility fraudulently obtained the family’s consent to conduct a private autopsy so that the facility could determine their loved one’s cause of death. However, these claims were only raised in the family’s third amended complaint, which was filed nearly three years after the death of their loved one.

All of the parties agreed that the claims alleging medical negligence while the family’s loved one was still alive were brought within the appropriate amount of time. However, the defendants argued that the claims alleging that permission was fraudulently obtained were brought too late under the state statute requiring all medical malpractice claims to be raised within two years. The trial court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss the case, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs on the post-mortem fraud claim only.

The defendants appealed the case to the Texas Supreme Court, renewing their argument that the claims alleging post-mortem fraud should have been time-barred. The court agreed with the defendants, explaining that any claim that is “directly related to health care” should fall under the law and be subject to the two-year statute of limitations. The court declined to answer whether a person can still be a patient after they have died, but instead it based its opinion on the fact that the hospital’s handling of the deceased’s body was “directly related to health care.” As a result of this opinion, the family will not be permitted to recover compensation for their claims alleging post-mortem fraud.

Medical Malpractice Cases in Maryland

In Maryland, as in Texas, there are strict rules that dictate when a medical malpractice case must be brought. And as in the case discussed above, defendant medical care providers are likely to argue that even issues only tangentially related to medical care should fall within the ambit of the more strict medical malpractice statute of limitations. It is therefore incredibly important that anyone with a Maryland medical malpractice claim act quickly by reaching out to a dedicated Maryland medical malpractice attorney.

Have You Been the Victim of Medical Malpractice?

If you or a loved one has recently been the victim of what you believe to be medical malpractice, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The skilled Maryland medical malpractice lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have decades of experience handling these very cases, and we can act quickly and skillfully to preserve all of your claims. The lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen want to put their proven track record for success to work in your case. Call 410-654-3600 today to set up a free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Court Allows Lead-Based Paint Lawsuit to Proceed on Circumstantial Evidence of Causation, Maryland Accident Law Blog, April 15, 2016.

Doctors Must Obtain Informed Consent Before Performing Any Operation or Procedure, Maryland Accident Law Blog, May 9, 2016.

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