Court Explains Judicial Estoppel in Medical Malpractice Cases

While people generally do not think of bankruptcy and medical malpractice claims as related, a recent ruling issued in a Maryland medical malpractice case suggests otherwise. Specifically, the court found the doctrine of judicial estoppel barred a plaintiff’s medical malpractice claims due to the position she took in an unrelated bankruptcy matter. While the plaintiff’s waiver of the right to pursue malpractice claims was inadvertent, the case highlights the consequences of failing to disclose potential causes of action in other forums. If you were harmed by medical malpractice, it is in your best interest to meet with a trusted Maryland medical malpractice lawyer to determine what measures you can employ to protect your interests.

History of the Case

It is reported that in 2012 the defendant performed abdominal surgery on the plaintiff.  The plaintiff suffered numerous side effects following the surgery, and in early 2016, she filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging medical negligence and failure to obtain informed consent.

Allegedly, although the plaintiff did not pursue medical malpractice claims against the defendant until 2016, she admitted she knew as early as the summer of 2013 that she intended to sue the defendant. In 2014, in between her surgery and subsequent malpractice suit, she filed a petition for bankruptcy. In her petition, she indicated that she had no contingent or unliquidated claims of any kind. In 2017, the defendant moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims, arguing they were barred by the doctrine of judicial estoppel. The court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

Judicial Estoppel in Medical Malpractice Cases

The doctrine of judicial estoppel acknowledges that if a party takes a position in a legal proceeding and that position is successful, it should not be permitted to then assume a contrary position in a subsequent proceeding, merely because their interests have changed. This is especially true in cases in which the change in position results in an unjust outcome for another party.

In evaluating whether to apply the doctrine of judicial estoppel, the courts will assess whether the positions in each proceeding are clearly inconsistent, whether the party taking the opposing position sought to obtain an unfair advantage if they were not estopped, and whether the acceptance of the inconsistent position by the second court would lead to the conclusion that one of the courts had been misled. In the subject case, the appellate court found that the trial court’s ruling that the doctrine of judicial estoppel applied was well supported by competent evidence. Thus, it affirmed the order dismissing the plaintiff’s claims.

Speak to an Experienced Maryland Attorney

Maryland medical malpractice cases are typically evaluated on merit, but they can be dismissed for equitable reasons in certain situations. If you were injured by a negligent physician, you might be able to recover damages via medical malpractice claims, and it is smart to meet with a lawyer.  The experienced Baltimore lawyers of Arfaa Law Group can advise you of your rights and aid you in pursuing the maximum damages recoverable under the law. We can be reached through our online form or at (410) 889-1850 to set up a conference.



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