Category Archives: Maryland

May 2018 Newsletter

Maryland trial court attempts to redefine liability standards Under consideration by Maryland’s highest court is a case that attempts to redefine professional standards of care – and negate the testimony of expert witnesses. The basis of the case stems from a medical liability trial in which instructions provided to the jury deviated from well-established law on measuring standard of care as what a ‘reasonably competent’ physician would be expected to do, per expert witness testimony. Instead, the jury was instructed to consider only what a ‘reasonable layperson’ would do – potentially warping how physician negligence is defined. The Litigation Center of American Medical Association and State Medical Societies joined the Maryland State Medical Society (MedChi) and the Medical Mutual Liability Society of Maryland in filing an amicus brief that not only cited the likely increase in meritless lawsuits and implications for standards of other professionals in court, but also noted that experts must be relied on because medical procedures are not common knowledge. “Letting juries nullify professional standards would upend the basic premise that professional malpractice claims involve specialized knowledge and duties that laypeople cannot assess based on their common knowledge,” the brief states. A lower appeals court agreed that…

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Top court to decide: Should doctors be held to lay standard?

Maryland physicians could see established medical liability law upended if the state’s high court doesn’t reject a trial court’s instructions informing jurors that negligence could be defined by what a “reasonable” layperson would do. For more than a century, negligence in Maryland medical malpractice cases has been guided by the “reasonably competent” physician standard of care—a standard that juries and judges learn through expert witness testimony. But when a five-day trial in which a patient sued his neurosurgeon after developing an abscess and bacterial infection after an incision did not heal properly concluded, a Baltimore County Circuit Court judge instructed the jury that they could also consider what a layperson would consider reasonable. When the physician asked the court to have the standard of care measured solely based on the expectations for a neurosurgeon, the judge refused to modify the jury instructions in the case, Armacost v. Davis. The result: The jury returned a verdict in favor of the patient plaintiff, Mark Armacost. The physician, Reginald J. Davis, MD, appealed the decision to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, which ruled that the jury instructions were improper and ordered a new trial. The case now is before Maryland’s highest court, the Court…

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December 2017 Newsletter

Year-end report sheds light on “Judicial Hellholes” The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) end-of-year “Judicial Hellholes” report offers a public glimpse at the most unfriendly jurisdictions for those defending themselves against civil litigation, including medical liability lawsuits. At the top of the list this year was Florida, where once-strong medical liability reforms have been continuously rolled back at the expense of patients seeking affordable and accessible care. “This year, thanks to a state high court majority’s barely contained contempt for the policy-making authority of the legislative and executive branches of government, and a notoriously aggressive and sometimes lawless plaintiffs’ bar, Florida earns the ignominious #1 ranking among eight Judicial Hellholes…” said American Tort Reform Association president Tiger Joyce. Also high on the list was St. Louis, where “antiquated rules have made it a favorite of personal-injury lawyers shopping for big-money verdicts” resulting in $300 million in awards since 2015. However, recent changes in state government, including a governor in support of changes to the liability system, do hold promise for much-needed reform in the coming year. To read more about ATRA’s “Judicial Hellholes” executive summary and report on the where physicians and defendants fare the worst when it comes to…

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Top cases show physicians had a forceful ally in the courts

One thing physicians from Florida to Hawaii had in common in 2017 was that the Litigation Center of the American Medical Association and State Medical Societies had their backs. The Litigation Center was involved in legal battles that helped prevent an insurance mega-merger, protected physicians’ right to free speech, and fought back on multiple fronts against attempts to sidestep or peel back established state liability reforms. But it was a case involving the staff at a hospital in rural California that may have attracted the most attention. Case signaled threat to end medical staff independence in California. In Tulare Regional Medical Center Medical Staff v. Tulare Local Healthcare District et al, the Litigation Center provided significant legal and financial support after the hospital’s board of directors voted to terminate the medical staff organization, remove elected medical staff officers, install a slate of appointed officers and approve new medical staff bylaws and rules without staff input. “This case serves as an existential threat to independent hospital medical staffs,” said Long Do, California Medical Association (CMA) legal counsel and director of litigation. Just before closing arguments were scheduled in October, Tulare filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy. As part the process, the hospital…

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High Court’s Contempt for Lawmakers’ Authority, Lawsuit Rackets Place Florida atop Latest ‘Judicial Hellholes’ List

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 5, 2017 – The American Tort Reform Foundation issued its 2017-2018 Judicial Hellholes® report today, naming courts in Florida, California, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Illinois and Louisiana among the nation’s “most unfair” in their handling of civil litigation. “With both this annual report and a year-round website, our Judicial Hellholes program since 2002 has been documenting troubling developments in jurisdictions where civil court judges systematically apply laws and court procedures in an unfair and unbalanced manner, generally to the disadvantage of defendants,” began American Tort Reform Association president Tiger Joyce. “This year, thanks to a state high court majority’s barely contained contempt for the policy-making authority of the legislative and executive branches of government, and a notoriously aggressive and sometimes lawless plaintiffs’ bar, Florida earns the ignominious #1 ranking among eight Judicial Hellholes, even as authorities have begun to crack down on some of the lawsuit industry’s most obviously fraudulent rackets. “Ranked #2 is perennial hellhole California, where lawmakers, prosecutors and plaintiff-friendly judges inexorably expand civil liability at the expense of businesses, jobseekers and those desperately in need of affordable housing,” Joyce explained. “The good news is the U.S. Supreme Court in June reversed a…

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Tort reforms facing legal challenges in three states

In contrast with the federal government—where a House-passed medical liability reform bill languishes in the Senate—many states have found success enacting tort reforms that better serve patients and physicians. But court cases are challenging reforms in place in at least three states. In Maryland and Michigan, plaintiffs’ attorneys are using what is described as “artful pleading” to skirt pre-trial measures that assess the merits of a complaint and its worthiness for going to court. And in Kentucky, a suit has challenged the constitutionality of its new law authorizing medical review boards to assess the merits of a complaint. The Litigation Center of the American Medical Association has filed amicus briefs in the Maryland and Michigan cases in which patients sued for injuries incurred after falling. By claiming ordinary negligence instead of medical malpractice, the plaintiffs bypassed review processes. The cases have gone through the trial and appellate courts and are now before the high court in both states. Dispute-resolution office bypassed in Maryland In Davis v. Frostberg Facility Operations, patient Sheila Davis was admitted to a nursing facility following back surgery. At one point, her mattress came loose and she fell on the floor. A nurse placed her on a mechanical lift to help her…

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