Maryland Court Discusses Causation in Medical Malpractice Cases

In order to recover damages in a Maryland medical malpractice case, the plaintiff must not only prove that the defendant deviated from the standard of care but also that said departure caused the plaintiff’s harm. As discussed in a recent Maryland opinion, if a plaintiff fails to establish either component of medical malpractice, their claims will be dismissed. If you were hurt by incompetent medical care, it is sensible to talk to a Maryland medical malpractice lawyer about your possible claims as soon as you can.

Case Background

It is reported that the decedent suffered from chronic cirrhosis, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C, which eventually led to his death. He received medical care from the defendant during his time in a federal facility between September 2015 and March 2017. Thirteen individual healthcare providers, employed or contracted by the defendant, were involved in the decedent’s care. The plaintiff claims that the medical care the decedent received was so inadequate that it amounted to medical malpractice under Maryland law.

Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that the decedent suffered repeated life-threatening esophageal bleeds and should have been referred to a specialist, like a gastroenterologist, who could perform outpatient procedures to monitor and treat his condition and should have been treated for his chronic hepatitis B infection. The defendant moved for summary judgment.

Demonstrating Causation in Medical Malpractice Cases

In evaluating the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, the court’s focus was on whether the medical care provided to the decedent met the standard of care expected of a reasonably competent practitioner, considering the specific circumstances of his condition, and whether any deviation from this standard of care resulted in harm to the decedent.

The court noted that Maryland law requires a plaintiff to present expert testimony that demonstrates a breach of the standard of care and causation. In the subject case, the plaintiff presented expert witnesses who offered specific opinions regarding how each defendant breached the standard of care in their treatment of the decedent.

These experts explained that a reasonably competent practitioner would have referred the decedent to a specialist, monitored his condition, and treated his hepatitis B infection, among other actions. Thus, the court determined that the plaintiff’s experts provided sufficiently specific testimony for a jury to consider the breach of the standard of care.

Regarding causation, the court emphasized that proving a departure from the standard of care alone is insufficient; the plaintiff had to demonstrate that the breach was more likely than not the cause of the decedent’s injuries. The plaintiff provided two theories of causation. The first theory was related to the lack of treatment for hepatitis B, but the court found that this theory had a statute of limitations problem, as the claim was time-barred for a significant period.

The court found the second theory, involving the failure to refer the decedent to a specialist, to be more compelling. Specifically, the plaintiff’s experts argued that with a gastroenterologist managing the decedent’s care, he would have received proactive treatment and monitoring that could have reduced the frequency of his life-threatening esophageal bleeds.

The court determined that a jury could reasonably conclude that the failure to refer the decedent to a specialist increased his risk of further gastrointestinal bleeding, which constituted a legally cognizable injury. As a result, the court denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

Meet with a Trusted Maryland Attorney

If you sustained injuries because of the carelessness of a physician, it is in your best interest to meet with an attorney about your rights. The trusted Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at Arfaa Law Group are adept at obtaining favorable outcomes in medical malpractice cases, and if you hire us, we will advocate aggressively on your behalf. To set up a consultation, you can contact us through our online form or by calling (410) 889-1850.

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