Maryland Court Discusses Deliberate Indifference Versus Medical Malpractice

While most of the harm doctors cause their patients is unintentional, in some instances, the failings of a physician will be so egregious that they will be deemed deliberate. Generally, claims that a doctor was deliberately indifferent to a patient’s medical needs only arise in the context of treatment rendered to an incarcerated individual. There are key differences between deliberate indifference and medical malpractice claims, as discussed in a recent Maryland case, and it is critical that anyone harmed by inadequate medical care in prison understand the distinctions before pursuing claims against the parties responsible for their harm. If you were hurt because of the negligent or intentional acts of a doctor, it is wise to talk to a Maryland medical malpractice attorney about what claims you might be able to pursue.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff, acting as the personal representative of the estate of a deceased inmate, filed a complaint against the defendants, alleging that they were deliberately indifferent to the inmate’s serious medical needs while in custody at a Maryland detention center, resulting in his death. The defendant moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s case, alleging she failed to state a claim for which relief could be granted. The trial court determined that although the complaint included sufficient claims of medical negligence against the defendants, it did not provide grounds for a constitutional violation against them. As a result, the district court dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint. The plaintiff appealed.

Deliberate Indifference Versus Medical Malpractice Claims

On appeal, the court reversed the trial court ruling. In its opinion, the court explained that to establish deliberate indifference, the plaintiff must show both an objective and subjective element. In other words, they must demonstrate that the decedent was exposed to a substantial risk of harm, which is the objective test, and that the prison officials knew about and disregarded this risk, which is the subject test.

The court found that the trial court accurately assessed the objective element of the subject case but disagreed with the trial court’s conclusion regarding the subjective element. Specifically, the court found that the plaintiff’s complaint provided detailed information on the inmate’s deteriorating health, the defendants’ awareness of the harm, and alleged protocol violations, indicating that the individual medical defendants were aware of the risk and ignored the inmate’s medical needs.

As such, the court determined that the plaintiff sufficiently alleged deliberate indifference by the individual medical defendants, satisfying the subjective element, disagreeing with the trial court’s characterization of the claim as a mere disagreement over treatment. Therefore, it reinstated the plaintiff’s claims.

Meet with an Experienced Maryland Attorney

Patients have the right to receive skilled medical care from their treatment providers, regardless of the setting in which the care occurs, and if doctors neglect to provide such care, their omissions may constitute medical malpractice. If you sustained losses due to a doctor’s recklessness, it is wise to meet with an attorney to discuss your options. The experienced Maryland attorneys of Arfaa Law Group can assess the facts of your case and advise you of your potential claims. You can reach us via our online form or by calling us at (410) 889-1850 to set up a conference.

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