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Court Discusses Penalties for Failing to Comply with Procedural Requirements in Maryland Medical Malpractice Cases

In any case in which an injured party wishes to pursue damages, it is essential for the party to comply with the procedural rules set forth under Maryland law. Medical malpractice cases differ from other civil lawsuits, however, in that they have their own separate set of rules with regard to what a plaintiff must do to be permitted to pursue a claim. In a recent medical malpractice case arising out of the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, the court affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s claim for failing to file certificates in a timely manner, emphasizing the gravity of the failure to comply with the procedural rules. If you or a loved one were injured due to inadequate medical care, you should speak with a trusted medical malpractice attorney to discuss what you must do to recover damages.

Facts and Procedures of the Case

Allegedly, the decedent visited the defendant hospital in March 2014, with complaints of lower back pain and numbness and tingling in his legs. The attending physicians assessed the decedent as having a pinched nerve and discharged him. A couple of days later, the decedent had severe back pain and began vomiting. He returned to the defendant hospital but died on the following day, due to septic shock. The plaintiff then filed a medical malpractice claim in the Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office (HCADRO) against the defendant hospital and the medical providers who treated the decedent.

Pursuant to the Health Care Malpractice Act, after the plaintiff filed her statement of claim, she had 90 days to file a certificate of a qualified expert. Reportedly, the plaintiff sought and obtained two extensions of time to file the certificate. She failed to meet the third deadline, however, after which the defendants filed a motion to dismiss. On the day on which the defendants filed their motion, the plaintiff filed her certificate and a motion to extend the time to file the certificate. On the following day, she filed an election to waive arbitration with HCADRO. The case was then transferred to the circuit court, where it was dismissed, due to the plaintiff’s failure to file a certificate within the time limitations. The plaintiff appealed.

Penalties for Failing to File a Certificate of a Qualified Expert

On appeal, the court stated that a plaintiff must file a certificate of a qualified expert with HCADRO to be able to pursue claims against a Maryland medical provider. The plaintiff is entitled to waive arbitration with HCADRO after filing the certificate. If a plaintiff neglects to file a certificate prior to filing a lawsuit in the circuit court, however, the plaintiff’s action must be dismissed. A plaintiff’s claim must also be dismissed in HCADRO if the plaintiff fails to file the certificate.

In the subject case, it was undisputed that the plaintiff’s certificate was not filed in the time permitted. The court was not persuaded by the plaintiff’s argument that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims, due to the fact that the certificates were late, and HCADRO had not yet ruled on her motion to extend. To the contrary, the court explained that although the filing of a certificate was a prerequisite to pursuing a claim, it did not divest the circuit court of jurisdiction. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court’s ruling.

Meet with a Skillful Malpractice Attorney

If you suffered injuries or the loss of a loved one due to a missed diagnosis or another form of negligent medical care, it is in your best interest to meet with a skillful Maryland medical malpractice attorney regarding the claims that you may be able to pursue. The diligent attorneys at Arfaa Law Group are skilled at navigating the Maryland courts and will gather the information needed to provide you with a strong chance of a successful outcome. We can be reached at (410) 889-1850 or via our form online to schedule a meeting.

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