Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

The document that initiates a Maryland medical malpractice lawsuit against a defendant is called the complaint. Under Maryland law, a plaintiff’s complaint must be drafted according to guidelines. For example, a complaint must contain sufficiently specific allegations to put the defendant on notice regarding the lawsuit and how they were alleged to have been negligent. A recent case illustrates how one plaintiff’s failure to draft a sufficiently specific complaint resulted in a jury verdict in her favor being reversed.

Operating RoomThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff, a breast cancer survivor, was scheduled to have reconstructive surgery performed by the defendant. However, due to the radiation used to treat the cancer, there were risks involved with the procedure. The defendant discussed the risks with the plaintiff, and initially the plaintiff agreed to proceed with surgery on both breasts.

The plaintiff claims that she later changed her mind and revoked consent to operate on her left breast, citing concerns over the radiation. The plaintiff still wanted to proceed with reconstructive surgery on her right breast.

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Over the last century, the development of modern medicine has resulted in not just a decrease in the mortality rate of infants but also in the ability to determine whether an unborn child will suffer from a serious, life-altering abnormality. Through diligent testing and a thorough analysis of a couple’s medical history, doctors are now able to advise parents about which, if any, conditions their offspring may be at risk of developing.

Baby's HandGiven the advances made in the medical field and the current ability to intervene to avoid the birth of a child who will suffer from a debilitating, life-long incurable disease, the duty physicians owe to their patients has grown to include advising patients about their specific risks. If a physician fails to advise a patient of these risks, and the patient gives birth to a child with a serious disease that would have been detectable through proper testing, a wrongful birth lawsuit may be appropriate. A recent case illustrates what a wrongful birth case is and how a plaintiff can go about proving one.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were a couple who gave birth to a child with severe disabilities. During the pregnancy, an ultrasound was conducted that displayed congenital abnormalities; however, the plaintiffs’ doctor failed to inform the plaintiffs about these defects. The plaintiffs claimed that they would have chosen to terminate the pregnancy had they been made aware of the risks involved with carrying the pregnancy full-term.

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Anyone who has spent a few hours watching old courtroom T.V. dramas likely remembers the climactic moments when – after a long, drawn-out trial – one of the parties presents a surprise witness that completely makes their case. Well, in reality, surprise witnesses are for the most part a thing of the past, due to the current discovery rules.

CourtroomDuring the pre-trial discovery phase of a trial, both parties are required to present the other party with a list of witnesses they intend to call. While adjustments can be made along the way, courts generally frown upon presenting a “surprise” witness unless certain circumstances are present. A recent case illustrates how a medical malpractice plaintiff was prevented from having one of his witnesses testify because he failed to disclose her identity during discovery.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was paralyzed after he underwent a surgery that was performed by the defendant doctor. The plaintiff filed this medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor, claiming that the doctor’s negligence resulted in his paralysis.

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Earlier this month, a Vermont appellate court issued a written opinion in a wrongful death by medical malpractice case, involving allegations that a doctor was negligent in prescribing multiple doses of opioid medications to a patient who later died from ingesting a lethal combination of prescription and non-prescription medication. However, the court did not reach the issue of whether the doctor was negligent because the plaintiff failed to file the required certificate of merit in a timely fashion. As a result of the plaintiff’s failure to file the certificate of merit, the case was dismissed.

Blister PacksThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the surviving loved one of a woman who had died after she ingested a lethal combination of prescription and non-prescription medication. The prescription medication that the woman had taken was prescribed to her by the defendant physician. After learning about her loved one’s cause of death, the plaintiff filed this wrongful death lawsuit against the prescribing physician.

The case was filed three days before the statute of limitations was set to expire. However, when the plaintiff filed her case, she did not attach a certificate of merit, which is a document certified by another doctor or medical expert stating that, in the expert’s opinion, the plaintiff’s case has merit.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a medical malpractice lawsuit, affirming the dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims based on the plaintiff’s failure to establish that the defendants’ allegedly negligent actions caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Specifically, the court held that since the medical experts called by the plaintiff could not testify to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, their opinion failed to establish causation.

Operating RoomThe Facts of the Case

The defendant was scheduled to have a robotic-assisted laparoscopic prostatectomy (RALP), which was to be performed by the defendants. On the day of the surgery, the plaintiff was positioned with his hands placed behind his back. During the surgery, none of the defendants repositioned the plaintiff’s body, and the surgery was completed after about 9.5 hours.

After the surgery, the plaintiff complained of pain in both of his shoulders and arms. He was later diagnosed with compartment syndrome in his right arm. A subsequent surgery was performed to relieve the pressure, but the plaintiff never regained the full use of his right arm.

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All personal injury plaintiffs must follow strict procedural rules when filing their case. However, medical malpractice cases in particular are subject to a different set of rules that, if ignored, may result in the early dismissal of an otherwise meritorious case. For example, medical malpractice cases in Maryland must be accompanied by a “Certificate of Merit.” A certificate of merit is a document filled out by a medical professional in the field of the alleged negligence, stating that there is a valid basis for the plaintiff’s case.

Exam RoomIn addition, Maryland medical malpractice cases are required to be brought with a certain period of time. In most cases, this is within three years of the alleged act of negligence. However, if a patient does not discover their injury until a later date, the patient has up to five years to file their case. In any event, the procedural rules in Maryland medical malpractice cases can be burdensome for plaintiffs and may even result in the dismissal of cases.

Doctors and hospitals are aware of these strict rules, and they may try to characterize any case even tangentially involving a doctor or hospital as a medical malpractice case in hopes of creating additional difficulties for the plaintiff. A recent case illustrates how a slip-and-fall accident was characterized as a medical malpractice case by a state appellate court.

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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.

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Earlier this month, one state’s appellate court issued a written opinion in a plaintiff’s case against the hospital where he was injured when he fell off a gurney while being transported. In the case, Nava v. Saddleback Memorial Medical Center, the court determined that the plaintiff’s injury was “related to” his medical care, and therefore he should have complied with the stricter one-year statute of limitations. Since the plaintiff filed his lawsuit after the one-year period, he will not be entitled to compensation for his injuries.

Hospital BedThe Facts

Nava was a patient at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center. One day in February 2012, when hospital staff was transporting Nava, the gurney he was being carried on tipped to one side, causing Nava to fall onto the floor. As a result of the fall, Nava suffered fractures to his clavicle and patella.

In February 2014, a few days before the two-year anniversary of his injury, Nava filed a personal injury lawsuit against the hospital. In his jurisdiction, the statute of limitations for ordinary negligence was two years, so Nava thought his lawsuit was timely. However, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits was one year. In response to the case filed against it, Saddleback argued that the case should be considered a medical malpractice lawsuit, and it was filed too late.

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Earlier this summer, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that a land surveyor was not liable for injuries suffered by a man who tripped and fell on a wooden stake used to mark the property’s boundaries. The stake was tied with a ribbon and stood approximately one foot above the ground. The stake, which was one of four marking the property, was visible to the naked eye.

Surveying ToolsIn ruling for the defendant, the court found that land surveyors are “professionals” and thus subject to professional negligence laws, which require that professionals perform their services with reasonable care. However, the court also found that the surveyor in this case did not owe the plaintiff a duty to act with reasonable care, since the surveyor was hired by a third party, rather than the plaintiff. The plaintiff owned the property in question, but the surveyor was hired by the prospective buyers of the property, who wanted to know the property’s exact boundaries prior to the purchase.

A Professional’s Duties in Maryland

In Maryland, individuals and companies hired to perform professional services also owe their customers a duty of reasonable care. Professionals who are required to meet this standard include architects, engineers, lawyers, dentists, and doctors, to name a few.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Idaho heard a medical malpractice appeal brought by the husband of a woman who had died from a serious infection she developed after being treated by the defendant doctor. In the case of Ballard v. Kerr, the court ultimately dismissed the defendant’s appeal and upheld the jury’s verdict in favor of the plaintiff for approximately $3.75 million.

Hospital RoomThe Facts of the Case

Ms. Ballard went to the defendant’s cosmetic clinic for a procedure that would remove fat from her stomach and deposit it in her buttocks. Prior to her procedure, she consulted with the defendant, who explained that she would be a good candidate for the procedure. However, shortly after the procedure, Ms. Ballard began experiencing “immense pain” in her buttocks. Initially, the defendant doctor did not see any signs of infection, but he provided Ms. Ballard with antibiotics just in case.

A few days later, she awoke in the middle of the night, asked her husband to call 911, and was hospitalized. She was only in the hospital a short time before her respiratory and renal systems began failing. She was placed on life support but died a short time later.

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