Maryland Court of Appeals Clarifies Evidentiary Standard for Non-Party Negligence in Medical Malpractice Suits

Recently, the Court of Appeals of Maryland decided a case concerning non-party negligence in a Maryland medical malpractice case. Maryland state law allows those injured by a doctor or other health care professional’s negligence to file a medical malpractice suit against the negligent party to recover for their injuries. Sometimes, when defending against that claim, the defendant will attempt to argue that they were not negligent, but that someone else—a non-party in the case—was negligent, and they caused the injuries.

The recent case provides such an example. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was found to have a renal tumor in his kidney and an adjacent enlarged lymph node. His urologist removed the cancerous kidney, but did not remove the lymph node because it was thought that it could not be removed safely. The plaintiff’s oncologist also did not think the lymph node could be removed, even though it was likely cancerous. The oncologist treated the plaintiff with a chemotherapy drug instead for several years, and the lymph node shrunk (confirming it was cancerous). During this treatment, a radiologist interpreted various scans of the plaintiff’s lymph node, but never noted any issue of enlargement. However, the original radiologist and another radiologist did note that the scans of the lymph node were not always performed with the best technology, meaning sometimes they were difficult to interpret.

Tragically, it turns out that the lymph node—still cancerous—had increased in size over the years. At this point, it was definitely too big to remove, and the plaintiff underwent cancer treatment. The plaintiff filed suit against the radiologists, alleging that they failed to alert his oncologist of the lymph node’s growth. Had they done so, the plaintiff argues, the oncologist could have removed it safely before it grew too large.

The defendant radiologists denied their liability, and alleged that the plaintiff’s oncologists were negligent and were actually the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Alleging non-party negligence is allowed in Maryland medical malpractice suits as part of a defense. However, as the court made clear, expert testimony is required to establish medical negligence and causation when the issues are outside the jury’s common knowledge. In other words, the defendants needed to identify expert witnesses and relevant evidence to establish proof for this claim of non-party negligence. Because they did not do this, the issue of non-party negligence could not be submitted to the jury.

Have You Been Injured by a Maryland Medical Professional?

If you’ve recently been hurt in a Maryland medical malpractice claim—or think that you may have been, but are not certain—you should contact a dedicated personal injury attorney right away. The attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, would love to sit down with you for a free, no-risk consultation and discuss your options. With years of experience, you can trust you will receive top-notch representation at our firm, and our attorneys will work tirelessly towards the best possible outcome for you and your family. To learn more, call us today at 800-654-1949.

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