Court Discusses Grounds for Certifying a Question of Law in a Maryland Medical Malpractice Case

In some instances, it is clear that a health care provider’s actions or failure to act can provide a basis for a viable medical malpractice claim, but in other cases, the law is unsettled as to whether a provider’s behavior would fall under the umbrella of medical malpractice. For example, the United States District Court for the District of Maryland recently denied a plaintiff’s request that the court certify the question of whether a doctor commits malpractice by engaging in a sexual relationship with the plaintiff, despite the fact that the issue is unsettled under Maryland law. If you were harmed by your healthcare provider’s inadequate care or inappropriate behavior, it is in your best interest to speak with a dedicated Maryland medical malpractice attorney to discuss your potential claims.

Factual and Procedural Background of the Case

Allegedly, the plaintiff both treated with and worked for the defendant physician. Throughout the course of their employment relationship, the plaintiff suffered from significant health problems and underwent an organ transplant. The defendant subsequently advised the plaintiff that he would take care of the plaintiff and protect her employment in exchange for sex. The plaintiff felt as if she was unable to decline, and the two began an intimate relationship. On other occasions, the defendant would ask for sex as a form of compensation for medical treatment.

It is reported that the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging in pertinent part, that the defendant committed medical malpractice by engaging in inappropriate and unethical sexual contact with the plaintiff. The defendant moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims, and the court granted the motion. The plaintiff then filed a motion for reconsideration.

Grounds for Certifying a Question of Law

In support of her motion, the plaintiff noted that no Maryland case law answered the question of whether a physician’s sexual contact with a patient constituted malpractice, and asked the court to certify that question and additional questions to the Maryland Court of Appeals. The court noted that the question presented by the plaintiff qualified for certification, but explained the simply because a question qualifies for certification does not mean the court analyzing the question must certify it. Instead, the court explained that while the Maryland Court of Appeals is in favor of certification, whether to certify a question of state law rests within the discretion of the trial court.

In the subject case, the court stated that the plaintiff failed to show that the trial court’s decision constituted either an abuse of discretion or a clear error of law. Additionally, the plaintiff did not cite to any new evidence, new controlling law, or misconduct that would warrant reconsideration. Thus, the court denied the plaintiff’s motion, leaving the issue of whether a doctor’s sexual relationship with a plaintiff constitutes medical malpractice unsettled under Maryland law.

Meet with an Experienced Maryland Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you suffered harm because of inappropriate care, it is advisable to meet with an experienced Maryland medical malpractice attorney to assess what damages you may be able to recover. The capable malpractice attorneys of Arfaa Law Group are adept at helping injured parties seek compensation in medical malpractice cases and will work diligently on your behalf. We can be reached at (410) 889-1850 or via or form online to set up a free and confidential consultation.

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