Maryland Medical Malpractice

In this post, we will look at medical malpractice lawsuits in Maryland and their settlement value. First, we will look at recent verdicts and reported settlements from actual medical malpractice cases in Maryland. We will also review some of the laws and procedural rules in Maryland that are applicable to medical malpractice cases and we will review the most common types of malpractice cases that we see in Maryland.

Settlement Value of Maryland Medical Malpractice Cases

Medical malpractice cases have a higher average settlement value compared to all other types of personal injury cases. The average settlement value for medical malpractice cases nationally is around $300,000 to $380,000. The median settlement in medical malpractice lawsuits is slightly lower at $250,000. For malpractice lawsuits against healthcare providers that go to trial and win, the average jury verdict nationally is just over $1 million. These are national statistics, both the average and median settlement value of medical malpractice cases in Maryland is significantly higher than the national averages.

Maryland Medical Malpractice Verdicts and Settlements

$792,000 Verdict (Baltimore County 2023): The defendant, an urgent care facility in Catonsville, negligently failed to diagnose the plaintiff’s Lyme disease. The practitioner initially diagnosed him with cellulitis. He was not correctly diagnosed with Lyme disease until a month later when he was referred to a hospital. Despite eventually receiving treatment, he continued to suffer symptoms and was diagnosed with Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome, causing persistent back, neck, shoulder, and joint pain, headaches, limited shoulder movement, difficulty standing or sitting for extended periods, and partial facial paralysis.  

$34,000,000 Verdict (Baltimore City 2023): A delivery team at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson negligently misdiagnosed a pregnant woman as being in preterm labor with fetal distress and delivered her baby via emergency C-section at 23 weeks. The baby suffered severe brain damage as a result of the premature delivery. The lawsuit claimed that there was no fetal distress or preterm labor and the delivery was not medically necessary.

$1,144,732 Verdict (Baltimore County 2022): 51-year-old man committed suicide while taking the drug Paxil for depression. Wrongful death lawsuit was brought against the doctor who prescribed the drug alleging that he deviated from the standard of care in prescribing Paxil, known to have an adverse side effect of increasing the risk of suicide, without physically examining the decedent, without requiring him to come into the office for regular check-ups and without any required monitoring.

$2,400,000 Verdict (Baltimore Count 2022): A 40-year-old woman underwent a bilateral nipple sparing mastectomy at GBMC following a malignant breast cancer diagnosis in her right breast. Although she had received chemotherapy to reduce the tumor’s size and had a metal clip marking the tumor’s location, the surgeon failed to remove all the malignant tissue during the procedure. The oversight was discovered months later when the patient felt a lump in the same area. Due to the delay in proper treatment, she had to undergo additional invasive procedures, including daily radiation treatments for five weeks. This resulted in significant injuries such as skin loss, burning, scarring, and contracture formation, alongside subsequent surgeries to address the retained tumor and reconstruct her chest. Beyond the physical complications, the patient suffered substantial emotional trauma regarding her future health, particularly given the increased risk of disease recurrence due to the prolonged presence of the tumor. Circuit Court for Baltimore County jury awarded her $2.4 million in damages from GBMC and Advanced Radiology PA.

$13,000,000 Verdict (Hartford County 2022): A mother-to-be was admitted to Upper Chesapeake Medical Center to induce labor. Despite her elevated blood pressure, there were no additional indications of a medical emergency or fetal distress. Labor induction was carried out using Pitocin, a drug used to stimulate contractions. Over 17 hours of labor saw her high blood pressure continue, with anomalies appearing on the fetal heart monitor. Her son suffered intra-cranial hemorrhage during birth, resulting in permanent brain damage and intellectual disabilities.

$3,000,000 Verdict (Baltimore City 2021): Plaintiff was an inmate in the Anne Arundel County Detention Center. He injured his wrist in a fight with another inmate. The defendant, the detention center doctor, diagnosed him with a wrist fracture that would heal on its own and only gave him an ace bandage. The lawsuit alleged that failure to provide additional treatment left the plaintiff with a permanent malunion of his left wrist causing limited range of motion.

$510,000 Verdict (Baltimore City 2021): wrongful death action was filed after the death of a 66-year-old female as a result of bilateral deep venous thrombosis while rehabilitating after discectomy and spinal fusion surgeries under the care and treatment of defendants. Lawsuit alleged that the defendants were negligent in discontinuing the decedent’s anticoagulation medication without doing proper diagnostic testing first.

$1,355,772 Verdict (Baltimore City 2020): 68-year-old man underwent spinal fusion surgery to correct a bulging disc problem. During the procedure, the defendant surgeon negligently performed the procedure and accidentally severed the vertebral artery causing the man to bleed to death and prompting a wrongful death lawsuit.

What is Medical Malpractice in Maryland?

Medical malpractice occurs when a licensed healthcare provider (e.g., doctor, nurse, hospital, etc.) renders negligent or inappropriate medical care that results in injury to the patient. Unlike many other types of professional negligence, medical malpractice usually results in very serious, life-altering consequences.

When medical negligence causes physical harm or death, it cannot be undone. However, our civil justice system gives victims of medical malpractice the opportunity to get financial compensation for the harm they suffered.

Proving Medical Malpractice in Maryland

To bring a successful medical malpractice lawsuit in Maryland, a plaintiff needs to prove 2 primary elements:
(1) the healthcare provider rendered negligent care that fell below accepted medical standards, and

(2) the plaintiff suffered physical injuries or death as a direct result of that negligent medical care.

Proving both these elements is a complex and expensive process. For starters, the plaintiff needs to get other doctors or healthcare providers to agree to act as expert witnesses. Getting an opinion from another doctor that your case is valid is just the first step and does not guarantee success. The defendants will present their experts who will say that the doctors did nothing wrong and your claims have no merit.

Medical Malpractice Laws in Maryland

Below is a summary of the various laws and procedural rules that are specifically applicable to medical malpractice cases in Maryland.

Cap on Damages

Maryland places limits, or “caps,” on non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering) that can be awarded in medical malpractice cases. The specific limit depends on the year in which the claim arises. For medical malpractice cases in 2021, the cap on non-economic damages is $845,000, and it increases to $1,056,250 for medical malpractice wrongful death claims brought by two or more surviving family members under the Wrongful Death Statute.

Malpractice Expert Needed

To proceed with your claim, it is necessary to file a certificate from a qualified medical expert within 90 days after initiating the initial claim. This certificate must confirm two crucial key points to the claim. First, \he doctor or other healthcare provider failed to meet the appropriate standard of care during your treatment or diagnosis. Second, is causation, that this failure was the direct cause of your injury. In certain circumstances, the judge has the discretion to modify or waive this requirement upon receiving a written request accompanied by a valid justification. However, failure to file the certificate within the specified timeframe may result in the dismissal of your claim (Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc., § 3-2A-04 (2023)).

Mandatory Arbitration

Maryland has mandatory arbitration for medical malpractice cases. Parties are required to arbitrate their claims before the Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office before filing a lawsuit in Circuit Court. The medical malpractice arbitration process in Maryland involves a panel consisting of three members: a lawyer, a healthcare provider, and a public member. This panel is responsible for reviewing the case and making a determination regarding the negligence of the healthcare provider. If negligence is found, the panel has the authority to award compensation.

But mandatory arbitration is not mandatory at all and this process rarely goes to completion.  Because either side can waive arbitration after filing the certificate of a qualified expert and head right to Circuit Court.  So while plaintiffs’ malpractice lawyers sometimes do some pre-trial discovery in arbitration, Maryland malpractice lawsuits do not typically progress through the Health Claims arbitration process.

Contributory Negligence

Maryland follows the contributory negligence rule, which means that even a small percentage of negligence by the plaintiff can completely bar their recovery. Maryland is one of the few jurisdictions in the US that still applies contributory negligence in medical malpractice cases. Comparative negligence, which allocates fault proportionately, is not used in Maryland.

Joint and Several Liability

In cases where multiple defendants contributed to negligence and injury, each defendant is jointly and severally liable. This means that each defendant is responsible for the full amount of any judgment. However, a defendant who pays more than their share can seek contribution from other responsible defendants.

Collateral Source Rule for Medical Malpractice

Maryland modifies its collateral source rule for medical malpractice, unfortunately. Under the modified rule, collateral source evidence remains inadmissible during a medical malpractice trial. However, after a verdict is reached, defense lawyers have the opportunity to request a remittitur, which is a reduction to the amount actually owed by the plaintiff. For example, if there is $500,000 in medical bills but only a $250,000 medical lien, the judge will adjust the outstanding medical bills to $250,000, even if the jury awarded $500,000 in medical bills. This adjustment occurs when the plaintiff has already received payment, reimbursement, or indemnification from a collateral source, such as through a statute, insurance coverage, or contractual agreement.

Common Types of Medical Malpractice Claims

Medical malpractice can occur in any situation and take a variety of forms.  There are certain types of cases that are frequently litigated.  Below, I summarize more common categories of medical malpractice.

Failure to Diagnose

Failure to diagnose a disease or a condition is the most common type of medical malpractice claim in Maryland. Correctly diagnosing your medical condition is one of the most essential functions of any doctor. When healthcare professionals fail to accurately and timely diagnose a condition, it can have disastrous results. Failure to diagnose cancer, particularly breast and colon cancer, leads to many malpractice claims.

The pivotal question in a misdiagnosis malpractice case is whether the doctor’s diagnostic procedures were adequate based on accepted medical standards.  It is not enough to say that the doctor “could” have eventually diagnosed the condition by doing further testing—that can be said in every case. The question is whether another doctor under the same circumstances would have done the additional testing and diagnosed the condition.

In some diagnostic error cases, correct diagnostic testing and procedures were followed, but the doctor fails to properly interpret the results or negligently fails to follow up.  Our attorneys see so many departures from the stand of care by doctors in which a simple medication or procedure could have saved the victim’s life with just a bit more attention and urgency.

Labor and Delivery Malpractice (Birth Injuries)

Medical malpractice cases involving negligent during labor and delivery are commonly referred to as birth injury cases. Birth-related injuries generate a large number of high stakes medical malpractice cases.  This is because many birth injuries are the direct result of medical negligence by the doctor and/or delivery team.

Many complications that often occur before or during childbirth must be resolved in a very short window of time.  Common examples of these childbirth complications include:

These complications are well known and OB/GYNs are trained to respond to them. That’s exactly why you go to the hospital to have a baby instead of having it at home.  A skilled and diligent delivery team should be able to handle these complications and deliver the baby without injury.  Unfortunately, poor communication, rushed decision-making, and negligent monitoring frequently result in preventable injuries to the baby.

Birth injuries can involve injury to the brain or nerves because of a lack of oxygen.  They can also involve broken bones and similar physical injuries.  Some birth-injuries that are generally the result of malpractice include: cerebral palsy, Erb’s palsy, brachial plexus injuries.

Hospital Malpractice

Hospitals are legally obligated to ensure a certain level of care for all patients. This means hospitals can be liable if they fail to deliver the proper level of care resulting in injury to a patient. Moreover, hospitals are liable for the actions of their employees such as nurses, technicians, and sometimes doctors.  This can be sometimes true with emergency room errors even when the doctor is an independent contractor. Anytime a malpractice injury occurs at a hospital, there is a very good chance that both the medical professional responsible and the hospital will have some liability.

From a plaintiff’s perspective, hospitals are more favorable defendants than doctors.  There are several reasons why it’s sometimes easier to go after a hospital for malpractice.  First, juries hold doctors in high esteem. They give them the benefit of the doubt.  The same is not true for hospitals.  Juries are much more willing to lay blame on hospitals as opposed to individual doctors.  Another reason hospitals make better malpractice defendants is that they are more likely to settle cases.  Hospitals are businesses. They will often settle cases to protect their image and keep allegations of malpractice out of the news.

Medication Malpractice

Injuries resulting from medication errors are another common cause of malpractice claims in Baltimore.  Medication malpractice claims can involve doctors, pharmacists, nurses, and other professionals involved in administering, dispensing, and/or prescribing drugs.  Malpractice claims involving medication usually fall into one of the following categories:

Adverse Reactions / Combinations: When 2 or more drugs adversely interact and cause injury to the patient liability for malpractice can involve the prescribing doctor and/or the pharmacy.

Wrong Medication: In some cases, the prescribed medication is perfectly fine, but somehow the patient receives either a completely different medication or the wrong dosage of medication.  This frequently occurs when patients are in the hospitals and staff administers medication through an IV line and machine.  It can also occur when a pharmacy fills a prescription with the wrong drug.

Side-Effect Injuries: When medication side effects result in injury to the patient the prescribing doctor may be liable for malpractice if they failed to account for the potential side-effects.  Many of these cases involve allegations that the doctor should have prescribed a safer alternative medication.

Surgical Errors

Surgical errors or surgical malpractice includes any type of medical negligence or mistake related to a surgical procedure or post-operative care. Surgeons (and their supporting staff) are held to the same standard of medical care as other doctors. When surgeons make mistakes they often have very serious consequences. There are certain types of surgical procedures that involve high rates of surgical errors. Some common types of surgical malpractice include:

 

 

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