Court Discusses Tolling of Statute of Limitations in Maryland Medical Malpractice Claims

Regardless of the strength of evidence of medical malpractice, if a person does not comply with the procedural requirements of pursuing a claim against a medical provider, the person’s claims may be dismissed.  For example, anyone who seeks damages for a medical injury must first file a claim with the Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office (HCADRO) within a certain amount of time, and if they fail to do so they may waive the right to recover damages. Recently, the Court of Special Appeals addressed the issue of whether the filing of a claim in the circuit court tolls the statute of limitations for filing a claim against a health care provider for a medical injury. If you suffered harm due to a medical injury, you should speak with a dedicated Maryland medical malpractice attorney to discuss what you must prove to recover damages.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is alleged that the plaintiff was working as a security guard at the defendant hospital when he was physically assaulted by a patient. The plaintiff suffered injuries due to the assault. The plaintiff subsequently sued the defendant hospital and emergency room physicians, arguing that they negligently failed to appropriately assess the mental status of the patient that assaulted the plaintiff and failed to properly monitor the patient, who was mentally ill.

It is reported that the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint, arguing that the complaint set forth claims of a medical injury within the scope of the Maryland Health Care Claims Act, which mandates that all claims seeking damages for a medical injury must first be filed with HCADRO. As the plaintiff did not file a claim with HCADRO, the defendants asserted the plaintiff ‘s claim must be dismissed. The trial court agreed, dismissing the claim without prejudice.

The plaintiff then filed a claim with HCADRO seeking damages for the assault. He waived the right to arbitration and then filed his second complaint. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss again, arguing that the plaintiff’s claims were barred by the statute of limitations. The court agreed, dismissing his complaint. The plaintiff appealed.

Tolling of the Statute of Limitations for a Medical Injury Claim

On appeal, the court addressed the discrete issue of whether the plaintiff’s initial lawsuit tolled the statute of limitations with regards to his medical injury claim, where the nature of his injury was initially unclear. The court noted that in his first complaint, the plaintiff argued that the defendant doctors breached the standard of care in treating his assailant, by failing to accurately assess assailant’s mental state or the threat he presented to the safety of other individuals.

As such, the court found it was clear from the language in the plaintiff’s complaint that he was alleging a medical injury that was caused by the defendant doctor’s breach of professional duties. Further, the court stated that Maryland case law was clear that while a claim filed within the statute of limitations with HCADRO that was later determined not to arise from a medical injury would toll the limitations period for filing a claim in the circuit court, the opposite was not true. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Speak with a Trusted Maryland Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you suffered harm due to the negligence of a medical provider, it is prudent to speak with a trusted Maryland medical malpractice attorney to discuss what damages you may be able to recover. The skillful medical malpractice attorneys of Arfaa Law Group are adept at assisting people in the pursuit of damages in medical malpractice cases and will work tirelessly to help you seek a favorable result. We can be reached via our online form or at (410) 889-1850 to set up a confidential and free meeting.

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