Hospital’s Failure to Object to Plaintiff’s Untimely Payment of Filing Fees Prevents Appellate Court from Considering the Issue

Earlier last month, an appellate court in California issued a written opinion in a medical malpractice case that illustrates how important it is for parties to object to perceived errors as they occur. In the recent case, the court held that a defendant hospital’s failure to object to the plaintiff’s untimely payment of a mandatory filing fee prevented the court from reviewing the defendant’s claim on appeal that the untimely payment deprived the court of jurisdiction.

Wall ClockThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the surviving loved one of a man who had become quadriplegic and then died after being treated at the defendant hospital. Initially, the man himself brought a lawsuit against the hospital, alleging that the hospital was responsible for his quadriplegia. However, while the jury determined that the hospital was negligent in treating the man, it also found that the hospital’s negligence was not the cause of the man’s quadriplegia.

Shortly after the initial trial, the man died. After his death, additional evidence was discovered indicating that the hospital’s negligence may have actually been the cause of the man’s quadriplegia and subsequent death. The current plaintiff was then named the plaintiff, and the case was changed to a wrongful death case. As a part of this process, the plaintiff was required to pay court filing costs by a certain date.

The plaintiff’s application as submitted on time, but the filing fee was not paid. The defendant did not object, and after reviewing the newly discovered evidence, the court granted the plaintiff a new trial. The defendant then objected, arguing that the plaintiff’s failure to pay the filing fees deprived the court of the power to hear the case.

The Court’s Decision

The court ultimately determined that a plaintiff’s failure to pay filing fees is not a jurisdictional rule but instead a mandatory rule that must normally be followed. The court explained that this is an important distinction because a jurisdictional rule, when violated, deprives the court of the power to hear the case. A mandatory rule, on the other hand, does not deprive the court of the power to hear the case when violated but does create a valid basis for an objection. However, since the defendant failed to object at the time of the plaintiff’s late filing, the defendant waived the argument for the purpose of an appeal. As a result, the plaintiff will be permitted to proceed with a new trial, using the newly discovered evidence.

Have You Been Injured in an Incident of Medical Malpractice?

If you or a loved one has recently been a victim of a doctor’s professional negligence, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Maryland medical malpractice lawsuit. The skilled personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at the Maryland-based law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have years of experience representing clients in all types of personal injury cases, including medical malpractice cases. Our attorneys know the importance of following all procedural rules, ensuring a client’s fair chance at recovery. Call 410-654-3600 today to schedule your free consultation with an attorney.

More Blog Posts:

Court Reversed $1.2 Million Verdict in Wrongful Death Case, Based on Plaintiff’s Untrue Statements, Maryland Accident Law Blog, January 16, 2017.

Court Allows Premises Liability Plaintiff to Seek Punitive Damages, Maryland Accident Law Blog, February 1, 2017.

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