Maryland Court Discusses Tolling of the Statute of Limitations in Dental Malpractice Cases

Dentists, like other healthcare providers, have an obligation to provide their patients with competent care. If they fail to uphold their duties and consequently cause their patients to suffer harm, they may be liable for malpractice. It can be difficult to ascertain the source of harm caused by dental malpractice, though, and it is not uncommon for a plaintiff to pursue dental malpractice claims years after the harm occurs. While any claim against a healthcare provider must comply with the applicable statute of limitations, there are circumstances that allow for the tolling of the statute. Recently, a Maryland court discussed the discovery rule in the context of dental malpractice in a case in which it ultimately determined that the plaintiff’s claims were time-barred.  If you sustained injuries due to negligent dental care, it is in your best interest to speak to a Maryland dental malpractice attorney as soon as possible.

The Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff filed a dental malpractice lawsuit against the defendant, arising out of injuries sustained following incompetent dental care. The defendant moved for dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims via summary judgment, arguing that they were barred by the statute of limitations. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion, and the plaintiff appealed. Upon review, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Tolling of the Statute of Limitations in Dental Malpractice Cases

Under Maryland law, an action for compensation for harm arising out of the rendering or failure to render professional services by a healthcare provider must be pursued within three years of when the injury was discovered.  In evaluating when the statute of limitations began to run, the courts will generally invoke the discovery rule.

The appellate court explained that the discovery rule applies in all civil matters. Pursuant to the rule, a claim will not accrue until the plaintiff knows or reasonably should know of the injury. The rule has two components: the plaintiff must have notice of both the cause and the nature of their harm before the cause of action can accrue. Notice includes not only actual notice but also inquiry or implied notice, which is notice that can be inferred based on circumstantial evidence.

Inquiry notice is activated when a plaintiff either does or should recognize harm has occurred. In the subject case, the appellate court pointed out that, per his own admission, the plaintiff was aware of the nature and cause of his harm more than three years before he filed his complaint. Thus, his claim was time-barred.

Confer with an Experienced Maryland Attorney

Negligently rendered dental care can cause significant pain and reduced quality of life, and dentists that recklessly harm their patients should be held accountable. If you suffered injuries due to the carelessness of a dentist, you might be able to pursue dental malpractice claims, and you should confer with an attorney. The experienced Maryland attorneys of Arfaa Law Group can assess the circumstances surrounding your losses and aid you in pursuing the full amount of compensation recoverable under the law. 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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