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Maryland Court Discusses the Award of Costs in a Medical Malpractice Case

Medical malpractice cases are complex, and despite plaintiffs’ attorneys’ best efforts, juries do not always accurately understand the issues of liability and damages. Depending on what court presides over a medical malpractice case, when a jury finds in favor of the defendant, the plaintiff may not only suffer a loss of a damages award, he or she may also be required to pay the defendant’s costs as well.  In a recent case decided by the District Court for the District of Maryland, the issue of when costs should be awarded in a medical malpractice case was discussed. If you suffered an injury due to incompetent medical care, it is prudent to meet with a trusted Maryland malpractice attorney to discuss whether you may be able to assert claims against your care provider.

Factual Background

It is alleged that the defendant anesthesiologist attempted to administer a cervical epidural injection to the plaintiff. Following the attempt, the plaintiff contracted a staph infection. He eventually had to undergo emergency surgery on his neck to address abscesses and infection, and a laminectomy of his spinal column. As a consequence, he suffers from chronic pain that is permanent and is unable to perform many activities of daily life. He filed a medical malpractice claim against the defendant anesthesiologist as well as the defendant doctor who cared for him after the epidural.

It is reported that the case proceeded to trial, and the salient issue presented to the jury was whether the defendants were medically negligent in the administration of the epidural and post-epidural care. The jury deliberated for some time but ultimately found in favor of the defendants. The court then entered an order requiring the plaintiff to pay costs. The plaintiff appealed.

An Award of Costs in a Medical Malpractice Case

Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the prevailing party cannot recover costs unless a rule or a court order provides otherwise. Pursuant to the rule, it is presumed that the prevailing party will be awarded costs, but the court retains the discretion to deny an award of costs if the party tasked with paying costs sets forth a good reason the costs should be denied.

The factors that the court can consider in determining if costs should be denied are: whether the prevailing party engaged in any misconduct; whether the unsuccessful party is able to pay the costs; whether the costs are excessive; and the difficulty and closeness of the issues decided. Put another way, the unsuccessful party must demonstrate an element of injustice in the presumptive award of costs for the costs to be denied.

In the subject case, the plaintiff argued that he lacked the ability to pay the costs and that the issues decided were close and difficult. Due to the plaintiff’s ongoing disability, he was unable to earn an income. Thus, the court found that his limited means rendered the assessment of costs unjust. Additionally, the court found that the issues were, in fact, close and difficult. Thus, the court denied the award of costs.

Confer with an Experienced Maryland Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you suffered harm due to inadequate treatment while you were hospitalized, it is advisable to confer with an experienced Maryland medical malpractice attorney to discuss whether you may be able to recover damages for your harm. The seasoned attorneys of Arfaa Law Group are proficient at handling medical malpractice cases, and we will tirelessly pursue the best result available in your case. We can be reached at (410) 889-1850 or through the form online to set up a meeting.