Court Discusses Breach of Contract Claims in Maryland Medical Malpractice Actions

In Maryland, it is not uncommon for a doctor to discuss expected outcomes with a patient prior to performing a procedure. If the doctor fails to perform the procedure properly, causing the patient harm, the patient may be able to pursue medical malpractice claims against the doctor. In most cases, such claims will sound in negligence rather than breach of contract, as demonstrated in a recent Maryland ruling. If you or a loved one were hurt by a careless physician, it is prudent to speak with a Maryland medical malpractice attorney about your possible causes of action.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant performed an appendectomy on the plaintiff. The plaintiff suffered complications after the surgery due to the defendant’s failure to completely remove her appendix. As such, the plaintiff filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant. Among other things, the plaintiff’s complaint alleged a breach of contract claim against the defendant on the grounds that he failed to remove her appendix as promised. The defendant moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s claim. The court granted the motion and the plaintiff appealed.

Breach of Contract Claims in Maryland Medical Malpractice Actions

On appeal, the focus was on whether the plaintiff properly alleged that the defendant made an additional promise, establishing a breach of contract claim. Importantly, the plaintiff did not argue that the defendant specifically guaranteed the surgery’s outcome or made a special promise to cure, as seen in other breach of contract cases. The plaintiff’s counsel even conceded in the Circuit Court that no promised result was claimed. The consent form signed by the plaintiff prior to the surgery did not indicate any additional promise or warranty of success. It explicitly stated that no warranty or guarantee had been given regarding the procedure’s results.

When asked for evidence of a special promise or agreement by the trial court, the plaintiff’s counsel could not provide one, stating that the defendant failed to perform as promised. However, neither the trial court nor the court found this argument convincing.

The court acknowledged that the doctor-patient relationship is contractual but noted that a failure to exercise due care is generally a tort and not governed by contract law. To establish a prima facie case of breach of contract in medical procedure-related facts, the plaintiff must show an additional promise or warranty separate from the agreement to perform the procedure.

Since the plaintiff failed to establish a breach of contract without an explicit promise separate from the agreement to perform the surgery, the court upheld the trial court’s decision, ruling in favor of the defendant.

Talk to a Trusted Maryland Attorney

Doctors have an obligation to perform procedures with adequate skill and care, and if they breach that duty, their actions may be grounds for pursuing medical malpractice claims. If you were injured by an improperly performed procedure, it is in your best interest to talk to a lawyer about your rights. The trusted Maryland attorneys of Arfaa Law Group have ample experience proving negligent healthcare providers should be held accountable for the losses they cause, and if you hire us, we will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can contact us via our online form or by calling us at (410) 889-1850 to set up a meeting.

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