Court of Appeals Discusses What Constitutes a “Medical Injury” in Maryland

If you or your loved one has suffered harm while in a nursing home, you may be entitled to compensation. At Arfaa Law Group, our Baltimore nursing home negligence attorneys can examine the facts of your case and determine if malpractice took place.

The Court of Appeals of Maryland, Maryland’s highest court, has partially restored a case alleging a nursing home allowed a patient to fall twice in the same day, holding it was inappropriately directed to arbitration because the negligence claims in the case did not involve any aspect of medical malpractice. Thus, it was not subject to alternative dispute resolution, as the lower courts had held.

The issue in the case was whether claims for negligence and related claims have alleged a “medical injury” within the meaning of Maryland medical malpractice law, specifically, the Health Care Malpractice Claims Act (HCA).

The plaintiffs, a husband and wife, sued a Maryland nursing home for injuries sustained by the wife when she resided at the home. The Court said that if the plaintiffs alleged a medical injury within the coverage of the HCA, they were required to file those claims in the Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office prior to filing a claim in civil court. If not, the plaintiffs were allowed to file their non-medical negligence lawsuit in court.

The wife’s injuries arose from two accidents at the nursing home. First, she fell off the bed while she was sleeping, allegedly due to the nursing home’s failure to secure her mattress to the bed frame. Secondly, when the nurse tried to put her back on the bed using a mechanical lift, the lift released and dropped the woman before she was over the bed, causing her to hit the hard surface of the floor. Among other things, Counts One and Two of the plaintiff’s complaint were on the basis of negligence pertaining to the aforementioned incidents.

The nursing home moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the plaintiff had failed to satisfy the condition of going through ADR, as required in malpractice claims. Both the Court of Special Appeals and the intermediate appellate court affirmed the dismissal of the case, reasoning that the plaintiff had alleged a medical injury.

The Court of Appeals of Maryland disagreed with the lower courts, explaining that the plaintiff’s first complaint that she fell from the bed did not claim a “medical injury” within the HCA. In fact, these were simply claims of ordinary negligence and did not require the judge or jury to understand any medical standard of care. The plaintiff’s second complaint, however, that a staff member dropped her while putting her back in bed did constitute a medical injury that would bring her claim within the HCA. Here, the judge or jury would need to understand the proper medical procedures pertaining to operating the lift and whether the nurse properly followed these procedures. As a result, the dismissal of Count One was reversed, while the dismissal of Count Two was affirmed.

If you or someone close to you has been injured due to nursing home neglect or abuse, it is important to reach out to a skilled Baltimore nursing home negligence attorney who can help. At Arfaa Law Group, we are committed to helping our clients resolve their malpractice claims as favorably as possible. We proudly represent clients across Maryland. To learn more about your legal rights and options, feel free to call 410-889-1850 or contact us online.

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