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Maryland Court Discusses What Law Applies in Medical Malpractice Cases Involving Out of State Parties

It is not uncommon for people to travel to another city or state to seek medical treatment. Under normal circumstances, traveling for medical care does not present any concerns, but when the care provided causes the patient harm, an issue can arise as to what state’s laws apply in determining whether the patient’s care providers should be held liable. Recently the United States District Court for the District Court of Maryland discussed which state’s law should apply when there is a conflict in a case in which the defendant was treated in Maryland but lived in Pennsylvania. If you were harmed by out of state medical care, it is prudent to consult a proficient Maryland malpractice attorney regarding your options for seeking recourse for your injuries.

Facts Regarding the Plaintiff’s Decedent’s Treatment

It is alleged that the plaintiff’s decedent, who lived in Pennsylvania, traveled to Maryland to visit the defendant physicians who specialized in ear, nose, and throat surgery due to chronic nasal obstructions and difficulty swallowing. She underwent various tests, after which she was scheduled for a tonsillectomy, septoplasty, and reduction of turbinates. The decedent was noted to be potentially difficult to intubate, but she was intubated without issue and successfully extubated after surgery.

Reportedly the decedent was discharged home with directions to sleep with her head at a greater than 45-degree angle above her body, which she did. In the middle of the night, however, her husband found her unconscious and not breathing, and she was unable to be revived. An autopsy indicated cardiovascular disease, lung disease, and obesity were the causes of death and that no gross changes that indicated post-surgical complications were present. The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendants in federal court in Pennsylvania that was transferred to the District Court of Maryland. Defendants then filed a motion for summary judgment.

Conflicts of Law Analysis

In reviewing the motion for summary judgment, the court noted that, as the care was provided in Maryland, but the decedent died in Pennsylvania, there was an issue as to which state’s laws applied. As the court was seated in Maryland, Maryland’s rules for choice of law applied. Thus, because the plaintiff asserted claims of medical malpractice and wrongful death, which are both tort claims, Maryland’s lex loci delecti rule applied. Under that rule, the parties’ rights are determined by the law of the state where the harm occurred.

Further, the court noted, a tort is complete only when the ham occurs, as that is the final event that imposes liability on the defendant. The court stated that under both Maryland law and Pennsylvania law, a tort is only complete when the plaintiff suffers damages. Thus, as the decedent died in Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania’s substantive law applied. The court ruled that under Pennsylvania law, the plaintiff in a medical malpractice case must show that the defendant failed to use the required care and skill, and the failure proximately caused the plaintiff’s harm. Further, Pennsylvania recognizes defenses such as contributory negligence. Ultimately, the court found that while the defendants presented strong evidence in their favor regarding the manner in which the decedent contributed to her death, a material question of fact existed that prevented the court from granting summary judgment.

Meet with an Experienced Maryland Malpractice Attorney

If you were harmed by negligent medical care provided in Maryland, but you reside in another state, it is wise to meet with an experienced Maryland medical malpractice attorney regarding your potential claims. At the Arfaa Law Group, our knowledgeable attorneys have the skills and experience needed to help you seek a just outcome. We can be contacted at (410) 889-1850 or via our form online to set up a free and confidential meeting.