Wrongful Death Plaintiff’s Failure to File Certificate of Merit in Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Results in Dismissal of Case

Earlier this month, a Vermont appellate court issued a written opinion in a wrongful death by medical malpractice case, involving allegations that a doctor was negligent in prescribing multiple doses of opioid medications to a patient who later died from ingesting a lethal combination of prescription and non-prescription medication. However, the court did not reach the issue of whether the doctor was negligent because the plaintiff failed to file the required certificate of merit in a timely fashion. As a result of the plaintiff’s failure to file the certificate of merit, the case was dismissed.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the surviving loved one of a woman who had died after she ingested a lethal combination of prescription and non-prescription medication. The prescription medication that the woman had taken was prescribed to her by the defendant physician. After learning about her loved one’s cause of death, the plaintiff filed this wrongful death lawsuit against the prescribing physician.

The case was filed three days before the statute of limitations was set to expire. However, when the plaintiff filed her case, she did not attach a certificate of merit, which is a document certified by another doctor or medical expert stating that, in the expert’s opinion, the plaintiff’s case has merit.

The defendant doctor asked the court to dismiss the case based on the plaintiff’s failure to file the certificate of merit. The plaintiff then asked for permission to file the certificate and have it “relate back” to the original complaint. Essentially, the plaintiff was asking for the court’s permission to file the certificate and have it back-dated as though it was filed along with the original complaint. The trial judge denied the plaintiff’s request and dismissed the lawsuit.

The Plaintiff Appeals the Judge’s Denial

The plaintiff appealed the judge’s order denying her the ability to file the certificate along with an amended complaint. The plaintiff argued that, under state procedural law, she should be entitled to file an amended complaint. The defendant argued that allowing the plaintiff to skirt the requirement that she file a timely certificate of merit eliminates the purpose of requiring a certificate in the first place. The court agreed, explaining that the purpose of the requirement was to ensure that defendants did not have to prepare to defend against frivolous lawsuits. By allowing a late-filed certificate, the court would essentially be requiring the defendant to prepare the case as though it was going to trial, even though the case had not yet been assessed by a medical expert. As a result, the dismissal of the plaintiff’s case was affirmed.

Have You Been a Victim of Medical Malpractice?

If you or a loved one has recently been a victim of medical malpractice in the Maryland, Virginia, or Washington, D.C. areas, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. However, it is critically important to abide by all of the procedural rules that apply to medical malpractice cases. Failing to file an accompanying document in a timely fashion may result in the premature dismissal of an otherwise meritorious case. For advice and assistance with your case, contact one of the dedicated and experienced personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers at 410-654-3600. Calling is free, and we will not bill you for our services unless we are able to help you obtain the compensation you deserve.

More Blog Posts:

Expert Testimony Fails to Establish Causation in Medical Malpractice Lawsuit, Maryland Accident Law Blog, March 27, 2017.

Maryland Medical Malpractice Cases Are Subject to Different Procedural Requirements, Maryland Accident Law Blog, March 6, 2017.

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