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Maryland Court Discusses What Law Applies in Survival Actions and Wrongful Death Claims Filed by Out of State Parties

When a person dies because of medical malpractice, the person’s family has the right to seek damages via a civil lawsuit. Specifically, the family members may seek compensation via a wrongful death and survival action. While generally the location of the harm is in the same jurisdiction as the deceased person’s residence, an issue can arise as to which state’s laws apply when the harm occurred in a different state than where the deceased person lived. Recently, a Maryland court discussed what state’s laws apply in wrongful death claims and survival actions arising out of medical malpractice in a state other than where the deceased person resided. If you lost a loved one because of incompetent medical care in another state, it is prudent to consult an attorney to discuss what state’s laws may apply in your pursuit of damages.

History of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff’s decedent, who was a Pennsylvania resident, traveled to Maryland to undergo a tonsillectomy, septoplasty, and a reduction of the inferior turbinate. Her oxygen levels fell below the normal rate following the surgery, but she stabilized and was discharged. After she traveled back to her home, she died of hypoxia, which was caused by a number of factors. The plaintiff subsequently filed a wrongful death claim and survival action in the Maryland courts. Prior to trial, the defendants filed a motion in limine, arguing that Maryland law should apply to the plaintiff’s claims. Upon review, the court granted the defendant’s motion.

Substantive Law Determined by the Location of the Harm

Under Maryland law, different choice of law rules apply to wrongful death claims and survival actions. Specifically, the Wrongful Death Statute states that if a wrongful act took place in another state, United States territory, or the District of Columbia, Maryland courts will apply the substantive law of the jurisdiction where the act occurred. The courts have construed this provision to mean that if the wrongful act occurred in Maryland, the substantive law of Maryland will apply. In the subject case, the allegedly tortious conduct of the defendant occurred in Maryland. Thus, the court found that Maryland’s substantive law applied with regards to the wrongful death claim.

Similarly, the court stated that Maryland’s lex loci delicti applies to survival actions. In other words, a party’s substantive rights in a survival action are determined by the law of the state where the alleged tort occurred. The court further explained that a tort is complete when the harm takes place, as that is the last event that makes the actor liable for the harm. As such, even if a person harmed by a tortious act travels to another state and dies from his or her injury, the place of the injury, not the place of the death, is the place that matters for purposes of jurisdiction. Here, as the tortious injury occurred in Maryland, the court found that Maryland’s substantive law applied in the survival action as well.

Meet with a Knowledgeable Maryland Medical Malpractice Attorney

If your loved one died as a result of inadequate medical care, it is in your best interest to speak with a Maryland medical malpractice attorney regarding what measures are available to protect your interests. The attorneys of Arfaa Law Group are adept at helping people seeking to hold negligent health care providers accountable, and we will work tirelessly to help you. You can reach us at (410) 889-1850 or via our form online to set up a meeting.

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