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.
The 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.
When it came time to perform the surgery, the defendant operated on both breasts. The defendant claimed that he was never made aware that the plaintiff changed her mind, and he had no record of her revoking consent to operate on the left breast. After the surgery, the plaintiff suffered serious complications in her left breast and filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant. Specifically, the plaintiff’s complaint alleged that the defendant “negligently” performed surgery on the wrong breast.
Later, the plaintiff sought to amend her complaint to include the additional claim of medical battery. Medical battery claims allege that a physician performed a surgery or procedure without the patient’s informed consent. However, since the plaintiff’s amendment was filed after the statute of limitations had expired, she was prevented from amending the complaint. The case proceeded to trial on the negligence issues alone.
At the conclusion of the evidence, the plaintiff asked the court to instruct the jury on medical battery. The court agreed, and the jury found in favor of the plaintiff. The defendant appealed, arguing that there was no basis in the plaintiff’s complaint to instruct the jury on medical battery.
The Appellate Court’s Decision
The appellate court agreed with the defendant and reversed the jury’s verdict. The court explained that a plaintiff’s complaint must be specific enough to put the defendant on notice of the specific allegations being made. Here, both medical malpractice and medical battery claims would be appropriate, but only medical malpractice was alleged. Thus, it was improper for the judge to instruct the jury on a theory of liability that was not pleaded in the plaintiff’s complaint.
Have You Been a Victim of Medical Malpractice?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured due to what you believe to have been negligent medical care, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Maryland medical malpractice lawsuit. Malpractice cases can be exceedingly complex and must strictly comply with all procedural rules. Thus, these cases should be handled by attorneys who are familiar with the nuances of Maryland medical malpractice law. At the Maryland personal injury law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers, we have decades of experience handling a wide range of medical malpractice cases, and we can assist you in the preparation and litigation of your case. Call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.
More Blog Posts:
Personal Injury Cases Based on Maryland Sports Injuries, Maryland Accident Law Blog, August 1, 2017.
Appellate Court Determines Slip-and-Fall Plaintiff’s Case Should Have Been Presented to the Jury, Maryland Accident Law Blog, July 10, 2017.