Court Holds Hospital Slip-and-Fall Accident Does Not Trigger Medical Malpractice Requirements

Earlier last month, one state supreme court handed down an opinion distinguishing accidents that occur at a hospital but do not involve a breach of a professional medical duty from actions brought under a theory of medical malpractice. In the case, Galvan v. Memorial Hermann Hospital System, the plaintiff was a woman who was injured when she slipped and fell while visiting a loved one in the defendant’s hospital.

According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was walking from the hospital’s pharmacy to her loved one’s room when she slipped and fell after stepping in a puddle of water that had formed outside the door to a restroom. The plaintiff filed suit against the hospital under a premises liability theory.

The Pre-Trial Motion for Summary Judgment

The hospital claimed that, since the injury occurred at a hospital, the heightened requirements of a medical malpractice lawsuit applied. Specifically, the plaintiff in this case did not submit an expert’s affidavit supporting her position. Thus, in a pre-trial motion, the hospital asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit because the plaintiff failed to comply with a necessary procedural requirement that applies to all medical malpractice lawsuits.

It was not contested that the plaintiff’s injury occurred while in the hospital, that she did not obtain an expert’s affidavit, or that medical malpractice lawsuits require such a filing. However, the plaintiff claimed that her injury was not due to medical malpractice at all but rather due to ordinary negligence in failing to keep the premises safe for visitors.

The trial court agreed with the plaintiff and denied the motion. However, on appeal, an intermediate appellate court reversed in favor of the defendant. Finally, the plaintiff appealed the case to the state’s supreme court.

The State Supreme Court Sides with the Plaintiff

The state supreme court looked at previous cases that presented similar issues, and it determined that there were several factors it needed to consider, including:

  • Did the injury arise when the hospital was attempting to protect patients from harm?
  • At the time of the injury, was the plaintiff seeking medical treatment?
  • At the time of the injury, was the defendant providing medical treatment?
  • Was the alleged negligence that of failing to comply with a professional standard of care?
  • Did the injury occur in a place where patients receive care?

After considering these factors, the court determined that the case did not fit within the framework of a medical malpractice case. Therefore, the heightened requirement of submitting an expert report should not apply to the plaintiff’s case.

Have You Been Injured in an Accident at a Hospital?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured while in a hospital, either from alleged medical malpractice or due to the hospital’s failure to maintain a safe property, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. However, as in the case discussed above, Maryland law requires expert affidavits in medical malpractice cases, and it is critically important to your case that you comply with this requirement, if it applies. To learn more about the differences between these two claims, and to speak with an attorney about your injuries, call 410-654-3600 to set up a free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

How to Tell Whether You Have Been the Victim of Medical Malpractice, Maryland Accident Law Blog, December 15, 2015.

U.S. Supreme Court Discusses Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act in Recent Decision, Maryland Accident Law Blog, December 8, 2015.

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