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Court Discusses Contributory Negligence in the Context of Medical Malpractice

When healthcare providers face liability for incompetent medical care, it is uncommon for them to admit fault. In some cases, they may go as far as to blame the plaintiffs for the injuries they sustained, arguing their carelessness caused or contributed to their harm. In Maryland and many other jurisdictions, contributory negligence is a valid defense. In a recent opinion issued in the federal court for the District of Columbia, the court explained what a defendant must show to establish a plaintiff’s contributory negligence in a medical malpractice case. If you were injured by a reckless physician, it is smart to meet with a trusted Maryland medical malpractice lawyer to discuss your potential claims.

The Plaintiff’s Injuries

It is reported that the plaintiff was a college student who played field hockey for her school. She suffered a concussion during a game, after which she visited the team trainer, who made an appointment for her to be seen by the defendant, the team physician. The defendant examined the plaintiff but did not believe she sustained a concussion and advised her to sit out for two games but did not offer any other treatment.

Allegedly, several months later, the plaintiff was treated with a neurologist who determined that, contrary to the defendant’s assertions, the plaintiff suffered a concussion and now had post-concussive syndrome. Thus, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the university and the defendant alleging, among other things, medical negligence claims. Following discovery, the parties moved for summary judgment. The defendants argued that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent and therefore should be denied the recovery of damages as a matter of law.

Refuting Contributory Negligence Claims in Medical Malpractice Cases

In medical malpractice cases, a plaintiff must demonstrate three elements to establish a prima facie case: the relevant standard of care, a departure from the standard, and a link between the departure and the harm suffered. A defendant may set forth a defense of contributory negligence, however, which may operate as a total bar to the imposition of liability.

For a contributory negligence defense to succeed, a defendant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the plaintiff neglected to exercise reasonable care and that the failure to do so was a significant factor in causing the alleged harm. The court elaborated that contributory negligence is the failure to employ the prudence a reasonable ordinary individual would employ use under similar circumstances.

In medical malpractice cases, contributory negligence is a valid defense if the plaintiff’s negligent behavior coincides with that of the defendant and creates an unreasonable risk of inadequate medical care.  Here, the court found that there was sufficient evidence demonstrating that the plaintiff acted reasonably under the circumstances to preclude judgment in favor of the defendant. Thus, the court denied the defendant’s motion.

Speak to an Experienced Maryland Attorney  

Inattentive healthcare providers often cause significant injuries, and they should be held accountable for their carelessness. If you suffered harm due to medical negligence, you should speak to an attorney about your right to seek compensation. The experienced Maryland medical malpractice attorneys of Arfaa Law Group have the knowledge and resources needed to achieve successful outcomes, and if you hire us, we will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach us at (410) 889-1850 or via our online form to schedule a meeting.

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