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Maryland Court Rules Certain Records Are Privileged in Medical Malpractice Case

In medical malpractice lawsuits, medical documents and images detailing the plaintiff’s treatment are essential to proving liability. As such, if a defendant refuses to produce certain records, it can greatly impair a plaintiff’s ability to present a compelling case. In some instances, though, a defendant is permitted to withhold evidence, such as when the documents sought are privileged. In a recent opinion, a Maryland court discussed medical peer review privilege in a case arising out of alleged medical negligence during a surgical procedure. If you or a loved one suffered injuries due to a careless treatment provider, you may have a viable claim for compensation, and it is in your best interest to speak to a Maryland medical malpractice lawyer about your options.

The Procedural History

It is reported that the plaintiff’s minor son underwent a surgical procedure that was performed by physicians at a military medical center funded by the defendant, the federal government. He was deprived of oxygen during the surgery and suffered a permanent brain injury and seizure disorder. The plaintiff then filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging claims of medical negligence and lack of informed consent.

It is alleged that during the course of discovery, the plaintiff sought certain medical records from the defendant, which it refused to produce, citing privilege under the medical quality assurance statute. The plaintiff objected to the defendant’s claims of privilege and filed a motion to compel the documents. The court then conducted an in camera review of the requested documents and ultimately ruled in favor of the defendant.  

Medical Peer Review Privilege

The court explained that, pursuant to the relevant statute, records that are created for or by the Department of Defense as part of a medical quality assurance program are privileged and confidential and, therefore, protected from disclosure. The court explained that a medical quality assurance record is defined as the minutes, reports, records, and proceedings that arise out of quality assurance activities.

Further, the court noted that a medical quality assurance program is defined as any peer review task undertaken by the Department of Defense to determine the quality of medical care. This can include the acts of other individuals or reviewing bodies that are responsible for quality assurance, identification and prevention of dental or medical risks and incidents, and patient care assessment.

The court noted that the law specifically stated that no party of any medical quality assurance record as defined by the statute is subject to discovery or admissible into evidence. In the subject case, the court stated that upon review of the documents in question, it was clear that they fell under the definition of medical quality assurance records. As such, the court declined to compel the defendant to produce them.

Discuss Your Harm with an Experienced Maryland Medical Malpractice Attorney

Medical professionals have an obligation to provide competent care. If they fail to comply with their duties, anyone that suffers harm as a result may be able to recover damages via a medical negligence claim and should consult a lawyer. If you sustained injuries because of incompetent medical care, the experienced Maryland medical malpractice attorneys of Arfaa Law Group can assist you in seeking the full amount of damages recoverable under the law.  You can contact us via our online form or at (410) 889-1850 to set up a consultation.

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