Legal Win for Maryland Victims of Malpractice

Victims of medical malpractice won a big victory in a Maryland court this week when a judge refused to reduce a jury’s verdict in a wrongful death case to the artificial “cap” on damages set by the legislature.

The case is Semsker vs. Lockshin, in which Patrick Malone and Associates represents the family of a Montgomery County, Maryland attorney who died at age 47 from a highly curable skin cancer. Treatment of the cancer was delayed for years because of the combined negligence of Mr. Semsker’s doctors. Click here for more case details and a link to Mr. Malone’s closing argument in the trial, which was held in November 2008.

Four years ago, the Maryland General Assembly passed a statute under pressure from the medical lobby which cut in half the amount of money that a malpractice victim could recover in a wrongful death lawsuit from a doctor or hospital in “non-economic” damages. Those are general damages for the victim’s suffering and the family’s loss of companionship with their deceased loved one.

Now the judge who presided at the Semsker vs. Lockshin trial has ruled that the “plain meaning” of the statute as worded eliminated the cap from all cases except those in which the parties had arbitrated the case before suit was filed. Read more about the judge’s decision in the Maryland Daily Record article.

This case is very significant for Maryland victims of medical malpractice, who are freed by this ruling from the onerous and unfair damage “cap” that acts as a regressive tax on the most injured patients.

Patrick Malone commented: “On the same day as the judge’s ruling, a report was released that shows Maryland ranks 45th among the 50 states in its rate of disciplining doctors who harm patients. Rather than trying to win special protection from the legislature to shield doctors and hospitals from accountability for the injuries they cause, the medical leaders of Maryland should clean up the disciplinary process so that the truly dangerous doctors are weeded out.”

The report Malone referred to was the annual ranking published by Public Citizen of physician license disciplinary boards. It can be accessed here.

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