Maryland Court Discusses Superseding and Intervening Causes in Medical Malpractice Cases

Doctors accused of committing medical malpractice will often try to avoid liability by claiming factors other than their negligence caused their patients harm. For example, they may argue that an outside force intervened and brought about the injury in question, thereby superseding their fault. Recently, a Maryland court examined superseding and intervening causes in a medical malpractice case in which the defendant relied on the defense to avoid liability. If you were harmed by the negligence of a doctor, you might be owed compensation, and you should speak to an assertive Maryland medical malpractice lawyer about your possible claims.

Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the decedent visited the defendant, an anesthesiologist and pain management doctor, for treatment of chronic pain in her neck and arm. The defendant administered an epidural steroid injection to the plaintiff. In the week after the injection, the decedent began experiencing double vision, balance issues, nausea, and vomiting.  She was admitted to the hospital but rapidly declined, and she passed away approximately two weeks after the injection.

Reportedly, the decedent’s cause of death was determined to be fungal meningitis. The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant, arguing that she negligently used drugs from a compounding pharmacy and that such drugs caused the decedent’s illness and eventual demise. The defendant argued that the pharmacy’s conduct was a superseding and intervening cause of the decedent’s death and requested a jury instruction on such causes. The court granted her request, and the jury ultimately found that the defendant was negligent, but the pharmacy’s acts were the superseding and intervening cause of the decedent’s death. The plaintiff appealed.

Superseding and Intervening Causes in Medical Malpractice Cases

The issue on appeal was whether the trial court erred in instructing the jury on superseding and intervening causes. The plaintiff argued that the pharmacy’s conduct could not be the superseding and intervening cause of the decedent’s death, as it occurred after the defendant’s behavior. Further, the plaintiff argued that the defendant’s use of the contaminated drug, not merely her purchase of it, constituted negligence.

The court explained that an intervening force is one that actively operates to produce harm after a defendant’s negligent act or omission has occurred. Notably, an intervening cause may or may not be a superseding cause, which is one that relieves the defendant of liability. In the subject case, the court found that there was sufficient evidence to support the assertion that the pharmacy’s conduct was an intervening cause and superseding cause. Thus, the verdict was affirmed.

Meet with a Maryland Attorney to Discuss Your Case

When doctors engage in careless behavior that harms their patients, they may be liable for medical malpractice. If you were injured by your doctor’s recklessness, it is smart to meet with an attorney to discuss your rights. The skillful Maryland attorneys of Arfaa Law Group are adept at proving that negligent healthcare providers should be held accountable for the damages they cause, and if you hire us, we will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact us through our online form or by calling us at (410) 889-1850 to set up a conference.

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