The Gross Negligence Standard in Maryland Wrongful Death Suits

A Maryland Appellate Court recently issued a written opinion discussing the heightened standard for proving gross negligence in a Maryland wrongful death lawsuit. According to the court’s opinion, in early March of 2011, the victim woke up around one in the morning with chest pains. The victim’s wife called 9-1-1, reporting the chest pain and her husband’s difficulty breathing and speaking. The defendants, first responders, arrived on the scene shortly after, asked the victim about his symptoms, and did a visual assessment, concluding that he should be taken to the ambulance for further assessment. The victim walked to the ambulance himself without the aid of a stretcher. Once inside the ambulance, the defendants checked his vitals, which all appeared normal. The defendants then determined they would take him to the nearest hospital.

Approximately seven minutes after first arriving on the victim’s street, the defendants took him to the hospital. According to the defendants, the victim was comfortable and talkative during the three-minute drive. At the hospital, while waiting in the emergency room, the victim’s condition seemed to worsen, and the victim held his chest and complained about the pain for five to ten minutes until he ultimately became unconscious. At this point, he was taken immediately to receive treatment, and the defendants left the hospital and went back to work. The victim ultimately could not be resuscitated and died of a heart attack.

Maryland law allows surviving family members to seek compensation for a tragedy, and the victim’s family filed a wrongful death claim against the defendant first responders. Under Maryland law, to be successful in a claim against a first responder, the plaintiffs must prove gross negligence, as opposed to simple negligence. Gross negligence, according to the court’s opinion, is a high bar to prove. Simple negligence is falling below the ordinary level of care that a reasonable individual would use in a similar situation. Gross negligence, on the other hand, is an intentional and reckless disregard of the consequences of one’s actions or how they may affect others. This is a difficult standard, and to be considered gross negligence the conduct must be extraordinary or outrageous.

The court, after explaining the standard for gross negligence, held that there was not sufficient evidence that the defendants were grossly negligent. According to the court, even considering all evidence in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, the victim’s family, the record was only enough to potentially prove simple negligence. Defendants responded to the 9-1-1 call, immediately provided him with attention and treatment, and brought him to the nearest hospital. While they may have made an error in medical judgment, it was not enough to establish they had a reckless disregard for the victim’s life. The court held that the plaintiffs had not provided sufficient evidence to establish gross negligence, and were not entitled to any monetary compensation for their tragic loss.

Have You Recently Lost a Loved One in Maryland or Washington, D.C.?

If you recently lost a loved one in a Maryland or Washington, D.C. accident, you may be entitled to financial compensation. The dedicated attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, Personal Injury Lawyers, represent clients in Maryland medical malpractice cases, auto accident claims, and slip and fall lawsuits. Our team of attorneys is experienced in helping individuals in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. pursue wrongful death claims. Call today for a free, no-obligation consultation at (800) 654-1949. You can also contact us online to set up your appointment.

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