Injured in a hospital? Med mal is a different kind of lawsuit

Sept. 8, 2017

The way in which medical malpractice claims are handled by the courts remains complicated and disputed today, as demonstrated by a case that will go before the Court of Appeals of Maryland in October.

A case before the Court of Appeals of Maryland may affect medical malpractice lawsuits.

The lawsuit alleged that a rehabilitation center resident, admitted for recovery and physical rehabilitation after back surgery, suffered injuries in a fall from her bed. The suit claimed that, instead of helping the resident return to her bed, a nurse pushed her to the ground, lifted her above her bed with a mechanical lift, and dropped her to the ground so that the resident was finally returned to her bed only when an ambulance with an EMT arrived to assist her. The injured resident and her husband filed their claims arising from the incident directly with the trial court, and skipped the part of a typical medical malpractice lawsuit involving arbitration without obtaining the waiver of arbitration by the parties that is required by the Health Care Malpractice Claims Act ("Health Claims Act"). They sought to bypass this requirement by filing an ordinary "negligence" case, rather than a medical malpractice case.

The question the Court of Appeals of Maryland will decide involves whether this is a medical malpractice case, or whether it is a "negligence" case in which an individual, who was merely a resident at a facility, was injured from a fall, so that the arbitration provisions of the Maryland Health Claims Act do not apply.

The differences involved in a medical malpractice claim

Most people have heard the word "negligence" associated with personal injury lawsuits. Under the law, negligence is defined as failing to act in a way a reasonable person would under similar circumstances. In some cases, filing an "ordinary" negligence lawsuit can make more sense and be simpler for the injury victim. However, medical professionals in Maryland have fought back against this practice by pushing for an expanded definition of health care so that individuals injured in medical facilities must comply with the mandatory arbitration provisions of the Health Claims Act.

The key to resolving this issue depends upon whether an individual is receiving medical care by a health care provider such as a hospital, or related institution, as defined by the Health Claims Act and Health-General Article of the Maryland Code. How the Court of Appeals decides may affect how injured patients and residents can obtain compensation for injuries suffered while under the care of a hospital, medical facility or rehabilitation center.