Distorting the law to help doctors beat Maryland medical malpractice cases may backfire. Here is why.

Every few years the insurance industry invests poorly and the next thing you know there is a medical malpractice crisis in Maryland. I don't doubt that many doctors really believe some of this, when their malpractice insurance rates are mysteriously increased.

The fact is that these crises have hijacked Maryland's judicial system. The so-called non-economic damages caps routinely serve to punish the most injured or disadvantaged victims of Maryland medical malpractice. Why them specifically?

Because the non-economic damages caps apply equally regardless of the degree of injury. Thus, if a medical negligence victim becomes a quadriplegic for life, the same limits apply to them as to less seriously injured victims.

Put another way, Maryland's jurors are a savvy bunch and they award a great deal more to catastrophically injured people. Yet large verdicts are also obtained for less debilitating injuries and the cap is the same for them.

As for families left behind in Maryland medical malpractice wrongful death cases, well their loss is strictly limited too. Not satisfied with the existing limits, the insurance industry goaded the Maryland legislature into new limits in 2004. But they goofed.

The 2004 Maryland Patient's Access to Quality Health Care Act (really the malpractice insurer's relief act) made a distinction between Maryland medical negligence cases that were arbitrated in the State's Health Care Arbitration Office and those in which the arbitration was waived and which went directly to the trial court.

It seems clear that the cap applied to the former and not the latter as the law is written. The case in point  was argued first in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland. On appeal the state's highest court grabbed it and will render a decision.

I suppose on balance the insurance industry may come to regret seeking even more advantage at the expense of the catastrophically injured. Their hurry to enact new limits resulted in a law that evidently disagrees with them.
Robert V. Clark
Maryland Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyer