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Maryland Court of Appeals to Address Whether the Wrongful Death Act Allows for Damages for Reduced Life Expectancy

In an opinion delivered in July, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland ruled that Maryland’s wrongful death statute must be strictly construed, and therefore, a decedent’s beneficiaries cannot recover damages by showing that the defendant’s negligence shortened the life of the decedent, unless they establish that the defendant also caused the decedent’s death. The ruling may be overturned, however, as the Court of Appeals recently agreed to examine the lower court finding to determine a patient’s terminal condition can give rise to a wrongful death claim based on the assertion that they would have lived years longer if the diagnosis had been made and life-prolonging therapy started sooner. If you suffered the loss of a loved one because of medical negligence, it is advisable to speak to a trusted Maryland medical malpractice lawyer to discuss what damages you may be owed.

The Decedent’s Family’s Appeal

It is reported that the Court of Appeals agreed this month to examine a lower court finding that said family members suing for wrongful death must establish that the doctor’s carelessness caused their loved one’s death, not just that they were denied additional time with them. The decedent’s family lost their appeal to the Court of Special Appeals, which dismissed their argument that she would have lived another 2 1/2 years if the defendant had correctly identified her deadly breast cancer in 2013.

The Previous Ruling

In July, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals held that the state’s wrongful death legislation must be strictly construed to apply solely when a wrongful act causes the death of another, as the law states. The court said in its ruling that the defendant’s alleged failure to diagnose the decedent’s fatal cancer did not cause her death because an accurate diagnosis would not have prevented her death from the disease. The court explained that, in a wrongful death suit, death is the only injury for which plaintiffs can sue.

As they were merely deprived of the decedent’s company, love, and devotion for 30 months, the family of the decedent was not entitled to seek or any other sort of damages. As to the wrongful death claim, the court stated it had no choice but to issue summary judgment in favor of the defendant.  In their successful petition for the Court of Appeals review, the decedent’s family claimed that Maryland’s wrongful death statute encompasses not just negligent acts that result in death but also those that result in “premature” death for terminally ill people.

Speak to a Trusted Maryland Attorney

Doctors who fail to provide treatment that comports with the standard of care can, unfortunately, cause their patients to suffer fatal harm, and if they do, they may be liable for damages under the Maryland Wrongful Death Act. If your loved one passed away due to medical negligence, it is smart to speak to an attorney about your right to pursue damages. The trusted Maryland attorneys of Arfaa Law Group are adept at helping grieving families hold negligent care providers accountable, and if you hire us, we will advocate tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact us via our form online or at (410) 889-1850 to set up a meeting.

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