Articles Posted in Maryland

The New England Compounding Center has been blamed for the fatal fungal meningitis outbreak that recently killed 44 people and left another 650 seriously ill. Plaintiffs’ lawyers always speak in moderated terms, avoiding phrases like “we have they dead to rights.” But, boy, it sure looks like an open and shut case from where I’m standing.

Anyway, a Massachusetts bankruptcy court judge has frozen the assets of the specialty pharmacy’s four owners so that victims and creditors may make claims against the company. Under the new court order, NECC’s owners will be unable to access their assets other than to pay legal bills and living expenses. NECC had previously filed for Chapter 11 protection and is already facing 150 lawsuits. A hearing has been scheduled for February 28, 2013.

The deadly meningitis outbreak has been linked to a steroid injection produced by NECC. A government investigation revealed unsanitary pharmacy conditions and flawed sterility testing procedures. During an October facility visit, federal investigators found widespread mold among other contaminants. According to the FDA report on NECC, “clean” areas of the facility had visible surface discolorations and standing water. The company voluntarily ceased operations on October 4, 2012.

Last November, NECC’s director was called in front of the House of Representatives to explain the FDA report. He exercised his Fifth Amendment rights and did not comment on NECC’s facilities or the company’s link to the outbreak. Following a denial of liability, NECC blamed its cleaning company, UniFirst. Passing the buck in turn, UniFirst acknowledged that one of its subsidiary companies was contracted to clean NECC’s facilities but asserts that the services were limited and that the unsafe conditions and tainted drugs were not because of the actions of UniFirst employees. UniFirst reports that it sent two employees to NECC once a month for a total of ninety minutes. UniFirst also claims that the janitorial team only used NECC’s cleaning solutions.

This is not the first time NECC has been under scrutiny for failing government inspections or shipping tainted products. In 2003 the company had problems with contaminated medication and in 2006 the company was cited for unclean conditions.

Last year, at least 89 medical facilities in Maryland received drug shipments from NECC. Some of these shipments were linked to deadly steroids. Maryland buyers include the University of Maryland Medical Center, Northwest Hospital, and Greater Baltimore Medical Center. More than 3,000 facilities nationwide purchased from NECC.

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You’d be hard pressed to find anyone in the Delmarva area, or anyone anywhere for that matter, that doesn’t recognize the names Yeardley Love or George Huguely.

In case you’ve had your head in the sand and haven’t heard these names, the story here is tragic. Yeardley Love was a popular and beautiful University of Virginia lacrosse player, whose was killed in an awful and vicious manner. Love’s former boyfriend, George Huguely, was convicted of her death and is currently awaiting sentencing.

It is being reported that Yeardley Love’s family has filed a lawsuit against George Huguely, and is asking for $29.45 million dollars in compensatory damages, with another $1 million being sought in punitive damages. The lawsuit states that Huguely “acted with such indifference to Love that his conduct constituted an utter disregard of caution amounting to a complete neglect of safety for Love.” Moreover, the suit said that Huguely “was aware, or should have been aware’ that Love was severely injured after the physical altercation that would result in her death.” The suit names Love’s sisters as beneficiaries of her estate.

These are North Carolina medical malpractice statistics of interest. Unless otherwise indicated, the statistics are from 1998-2009.

  • There are an average of 566 medical malpractice lawsuits filed in North Carolina each year, or one-quarter of one percent of the lawsuits filed in North Carolina. For those who think malpractice lawsuits are increasing in number: there were 496 malpractice lawsuits in 2009, the last year studied.
  • Said another way, from 1998 through 2009, the number of all civil case filings in North Carolina

The Maryland Court of Appeals decided Pittway v. Collins last month, a tragic case involving a lawsuit that arose out of a fire that took two lives in Montgomery County in 1998. A burning candle caused the fire in the basement, where the children – guests of the tenants of the house – were sleeping. The children lit the candle during an electrical outage caused by thunderstorms and the HVAC powered smoke detector that had no backup was not operational. Making the problem worse, the basement was a windowless basement bedroom that did not have proper egress.

Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against a chain of defendants for failing to supply an adequate fire alarm: the builder, the landlord, the electrical subcontractor, the city rental inspector, and the home improvement company that renovated the basement four years earlier.

After settlements and summary judgment, everyone got out of the case except for the builder and the manufacturer. Both filed motions for summary judgment, before the discovery deadline, that intervening negligent acts superseded the claims against them. The trial court granted the motions. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals reversed.

The Baltimore Injury Lawyer Blog has a post on a Maryland Daily Record article looking at how President-Elect Barack Obama might change the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals which includes Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

I’ve spent far more time thinking about how President Obama will change the country than his impact on lawyers or even my own clients. But President Obama will nominate judges that I will stand before and argue. While I think President Bush has nominated a lot of good judges, this fact makes me a little happier to be a lawyer today. I’m not saying every plaintiffs’ lawyer will have a better shot at success in front of judges nominated by Obama. I just think they are likely to be fair and reasonable judges.

Mr. Miller:

Hi, I am a Maryland attorney and would like to get little mentoring on any differences between an unidentified motorist claim and an uninsured motorist claim. Please call or send me an email and I promise I’ll be brief. Thanks so much for any help!

Dear Maryland Attorney:

Bob Zarbin and Jim MacAlister write a telling article in this month’s journal of the Maryland Trial Lawyers Association about Maryland’s new bad faith law. The authors note that the avalanche of bad faith claims the insurance companies said were coming down the pike with Maryland’s new bad faith law was actually only 12 in the first quarter of the 2008 and only 12 all last year.

Similarly, on the medical malpractice front, Maryland malpractice insurers claimed the sky was falling one minute and the next they are declaring $74 million profit to their doctor shareholders and lowering malpractice insurance rates. The legislative process requires that the viewpoints of all stakeholders. But can we at least make sure we put the proper discounted value on “the sky is falling” on the next go around? I’m hoping the next go around includes a revised bad faith law with more teeth than mere costs and expenses.

In the same issue, Kevin Goldberg, who is with Goldberg, Finnegan & Mester in Silver Spring, Maryland, writes a great article laying out a great checklist of avenues to explore when you have a catastrophic accident and what appears to be limited coverage.

In Brockington v. Grimstead, 176 Md. App. 327 (2007), the Maryland Court of Special Appeals considers a bizarre set of facts involving juror deliberations. The underlying action is a Maryland medical malpractice case in Baltimore tried before now retired Judge Thomas E. Noel for failure to diagnose cancer. The jury awarded $4,414,195, including $ 3,000,000 for non-economic damages, or $1,959,195 once the award was reduced consistent with the cap on non-economic damages.

The issue on appeal involved the judge’s decision to include alternates in the jury room. Judge Noel, over strenuous objection from the plaintiff’s  lawyer,seated for deliberations six regular jurors and two alternates who were instructed to remain silent during deliberations. Later, when two ostensibly pro-defendant jurors backed off the jury, the defendant’s malpractice lawyer flip flopped and withdrew his consent to the substitution, an objection he apparently repeated about 5 million times over the course of the deliberations.

The issue was whether the Defendant waived his right to complain when he agreed to let the alternate jurors sit in on the deliberations. The Plaintiff argued that the substitution of an alternate juror for a regular juror is forbidden once the regular jurors have retired to deliberate. In other words, the malpractice defendant cannot un-ring the bell by withdrawing his consent when the logical conclusion of his agreement did not go his way. Plaintiff’s attorney further contended that because there was consent to the alternate process, the trial court’s rulings should be evaluated for abuse of discretion, not the obvious legal error.

If you are selling medical malpractice insurance in Maryland, Maryland Insurance Code § 19-114 (2008) requires that you offer at a minimum, medical malpractice policies with deductibles of $25,000, $50,000, and $100,000.

We have a medical malpractice lawsuit pending against a doctor in Maryland who recently was found liable at trial in another case. The doctor has a high malpractice deductible, and it was reported that no offer was made in the case.

I think our case is a great deal stronger than the one this doctor just lost, both on liability and on damages because, unlike his last case, we can put on the board damages that exceed the doctor’s policy limits of $1,000,000. That has to be a strong incentive for the doctor to encourage settlement because he has personal exposure to an excess verdict. Still, I would not be surprised if we end up trying the case because the doctor does not approve a settlement because he does not want to pay the deductible again.

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