Many medical facilities are funded and operated by the federal government. Patients who suffer harm due to incompetent care rendered in such a facility may be able to recover damages, but they typically must comply with the requirements imposed by the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), as their claims will ultimately be pursued against the federal government. The duties that arise out of the FTCA are strictly construed, and the failure to abide by such obligations may be fatal to a plaintiff’s claim. This was demonstrated in a recent opinion issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in which the court affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s medical malpractice case. If you suffered harm due to the negligence of a health care provider, it is sensible to consult a Maryland medical malpractice lawyer promptly to prevent the inadvertent waiver of your right to recover damages.
The Facts of the Case
Reportedly, the decedent underwent treatment at a federally funded hospital. He subsequently died due to complications from liver cancer. The plaintiff, the decedent’s wife, filed a lawsuit against the federal government, seeking damages for the decedent’s death, pursuant to the FTCA. The plaintiff alleged, in part, that the defendant’s doctors negligently failed to screen the decedent for liver cancer. The defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff’s claims were barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.
Notice Requirements Under the FTCA
After reviewing the pleadings and evidence of record, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling. The court explained that absent a waiver, the United States is shielded from liability in civil lawsuits via sovereign immunity. The FTCA acts as a waiver of such immunity but only allows parties to pursue claims against the government if they comply with certain terms and conditions.
While the government consents to suits seeking damages for the harm caused by its employees while acting in the scope of their employment, such claims are barred unless they are presented to the appropriate federal agency, in writing, within two years of the date when the claim accrues. The court elaborated that a claim accrues when the plaintiff either knows or reasonably should know of both the harm suffered and the cause of the harm. In the subject case, the trial court determined that the plaintiff’s claims accrued in 2011, but she failed to file her administrative tort claim until 2014. Thus, her claims were barred by the statute of limitations. Continue Reading