Maryland Court Discusses Federal Claims in Medical Malpractice Cases

When children suffer harm due to negligent medical care, their parents will often pursue claims against the providers responsible for their injuries on their behalf. In doing so, the parents must ensure they comply with any applicable rules as if they fail to do so, the court might dismiss their claims, as demonstrated in a recent Maryland medical malpractice ruling. If your child suffered injuries because of the carelessness of a doctor, it is smart to confer with a Baltimore medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible.

History of the Case

It is alleged that before the minor plaintiff’s birth, doctors identified congenital defects in her trachea and esophagus. Immediately after birth, a surgeon from a national children’s medical center operated on the minor plaintiff at a military medical center in Maryland to correct these defects. Post-surgery, the minor plaintiff experienced severe complications, prompting her transfer to a children’s hospital in Massachusetts for further surgeries.

It is reported that the plaintiffs, alleging medical negligence during the initial surgery and subsequent care at WRMC, filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act, naming the  military medical center and the surgeon as defendants and seeking damages against the United States. The Federal Tort Claims Act mandates that claimants exhaust administrative remedies, including presenting claims with a specified “sum certain” of damages to the federal agency involved, before suing in federal court. The defendants moved to dismiss the plaintiff mother’s claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

The Right to Pursue Federal Claims in Medical Malpractice Cases

The court reviewed the case under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), focusing on whether subject matter jurisdiction was established. In doing so, the court explained that under the Federal Tort Claims Act, a “sum certain” of damages must be presented to the federal agency handling the claim, enabling it to investigate and potentially settle the claim. Further, a plaintiff’s failure to specify a “sum certain” results in failure to exhaust administrative remedies, barring jurisdiction in federal court.

In the subject case, despite the plaintiffs submitting attachments to their Complaint detailing the minor plaintiff’s medical records and the nature of her injuries, the court found that her mother, who was one of the plaintiffs, stated “0.00” in total damages, thereby failing to comply with the Federal Tort Claims Act’s requirement. Additionally, an addendum referencing damages did not specifically quantify the mother’s claims but rather encompassed damages sought collectively by all plaintiffs, including non-economic damages the mother could not pursue.

The court found that even considering leniency towards the submission, the information provided was insufficient for the agency to ascertain Lee’s individual damages. Thus, the court granted the United States’ motion to dismiss the mother’s claims for lack of jurisdiction, emphasizing that a precise “sum certain” is crucial to the FTCA’s settlement procedures and jurisdictional requirements.

Consult with a Skilled Maryland Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you or your child suffered harm due to a doctor’s negligence, it is wise to consult with an attorney to assess the compensation you might be entitled to recover. The proficient Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at Arfaa Law Group can review your potential claims and assist you in pursuing justice. To schedule a consultation, contact us via our online form or call (410) 889-1850.

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