Court Answers Statute of Limitations Question in Recent Medical Malpractice Case

All Maryland personal injury cases must be brought within a certain amount of time, as outlined in the relevant statute of limitations. In most Maryland medical malpractice cases, the statute of limitations requires that the case be filed before three years has elapsed since the injury.

While determining the applicable statute of limitations is often an easy task, determining when the cause of action accrued – and thus, when the “clock” starts ticking – can be a more difficult task. A recent appellate opinion in a medical malpractice case wrestles with the issue of when a plaintiff’s cause of action accrues.

The Facts of the Case

The case involved two sets of parents, each of whom received in-vitro fertilization procedures provided by the defendant doctor. In each case, the defendant implanted a fertilized egg from a donor into the wife. The wives were later determined to be pregnant, and they gave birth to seeming healthy children. One couple had a single child, and the other couple had twins.

A few months after the women gave birth, the defendant discovered that the egg donor had tested positive for fragile X mutation, a chromosomal abnormality that can result in intellectual disability and other difficulties. The plaintiffs’ children underwent testing, and it was discovered that each couple had one child that possessed the fragile X mutation.

The plaintiffs filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant, alleging that his failure to test the donor for the fragile X mutation resulted in the plaintiffs delivering a child who will require “extraordinary expenses.” The plaintiffs sought compensation for the amount of money it would cost to raise the child, above and beyond the amount it costs to raise a healthy child.

The defendant claimed that the lawsuits were time-barred because they were filed after the statute of limitations had expired. The defendant argued that the plaintiffs’ claim accrued when the fertilized egg was implanted into the wife. The plaintiffs argued that the claims accrued at birth.

The trial court initially denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, finding the statute of limitations began to run at birth. The defendant appealed.

On appeal, the court affirmed the lower court’s decision in favor of the plaintiffs. The court began by noting that the general rule is that a claim of medical malpractice accrues when the alleged negligent medical act is performed. However, the court noted that this was not a regular medical malpractice case. The court explained that since the plaintiffs were seeking compensation for the excess costs they will expend in raising a child with the fragile X mutation, the claim cannot legally accrue until the child is born because if the child had not been born, there would be no expenses and thus no claim.

As a result of the court’s decision, the plaintiffs’ claims will be permitted to proceed toward trial or settlement negotiations.

Have You Been a Victim of Medical Malpractice?

If you or a loved one has recently been a victim of negligent medical care, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Maryland medical malpractice lawsuit. The dedicated Maryland personal injury and medical malpractice attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience representing clients in a wide range of personal injury cases, including all types of medical malpractice claims. To learn more, and to speak with a dedicated personal injury attorney about your case, call 410-654-3600 today.

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