Court Discusses Timeliness of Medical Malpractice Claims Against the Military

Members of the military typically receive care from doctors employed by the Department of Defense. If the care they receive is inadequate and causes injuries or other harm, they may be able to pursue medical malpractice claims against the federal government. As with all medical malpractice cases, such claims must be brought in a timely manner; otherwise, they will be deemed waived. In a recent medical malpractice case, a court issued an opinion discussing the timeliness of medical malpractice claims against the military, ultimately finding that the plaintiff’s claims could proceed.  If you were injured by incompetent medical treatment, it is smart to talk to a Maryland medical malpractice attorney about your rights.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is alleged that in January 2019, while serving in the United States military, the decedent requested a medical screening for breast cancer. Despite recommendations from an oncologist for a diagnostic MRI based on family history, possession of the BRCA2 gene mutation, and physical symptoms, the decedent’s primary care physician incorrectly ordered a screening MRI.

It is reported that the decedent’s subsequent requests for the appropriate diagnostic procedures were denied by the Department of Defense’s health insurance, leading to a delayed breast cancer diagnosis. Ten months later, the decedent, now terminally ill, filed a medical malpractice claim with the Department of Defense. The claim was denied as untimely, and after exhausting administrative remedies, the plaintiff’s estate brought the case to court under the Administrative Procedure Act. The defendant moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint.

Timeliness of Medical Malpractice Claims Against the Military

The defendant sought dismissal based on two arguments. First, it asserted that a federal statute that stated all rulings related to injuries and death incidental to noncombat activities of the military are final and conclusive. The court, invoking the presumption in favor of judicial review, interpreted the statute in question not to preclude constitutional challenges or violations of clear statutory mandates. In this case, the plaintiff alleged a due process violation, asserting that the Secretary misconstrued the applicable statute of limitations by not applying its tolling provision, which the court found reviewable.

Moving to the second argument, the defendant claimed the plaintiff’s claim was untimely under the statute relating to claims arising out of injuries and death incidental to noncombat activities of the military, arguing that it was filed more than two years after it accrued. The court rejected the defendant’s canons of construction, concluding that the two statutes in question were not irreconcilable. It held that the statute of limitations tolling provision applied to the plaintiff’s military medical malpractice claim under the statute for injuries and death incidental to noncombat activities of the military.

Based on the foregoing, the court rejected the implied repeal argument and ruled that the plaintiff had plausibly stated a claim for relief, denying the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

Meet with a Capable Maryland Attorney

Doctors have an obligation to provide their patients with competent care, and if they neglect to do so, they should be held accountable. If you were harmed by a negligent doctor, you should meet with an attorney about your options. The capable Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at Arfaa Law Group can inform you of your potential claims and help you seek any damages you may be owed. To arrange a consultation, you can contact us through our online form or by calling (410) 889-1850.

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