Recent MD Case Shows Importance of Filing Medical Malpractice Suits As Soon As Possible

The Maryland Court of Appeals filed an opinion in September of this year, Mummert v. Alizadeh, which illustrates the importance of contacting a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after a medical malpractice injury is discovered.

In 2011, the surviving relatives of Mrs. Margaret Varner filed suit against her long-time physician, Dr. Massoud Alizadeh, under Maryland’s medical malpractice and wrongful death statutes. During the 7-year span of time between 1997 and 2004, while regularly seeing Dr. Alizadeh, Mrs. Varney lost weight and had fluctuating digestive issues. The claims alleged that Dr. Alizadeh negligently ignored these symptoms and failed to test Mrs. Varner on a regular basis. Because of these failures, according to the claims, Mrs. Varner was not diagnosed with colorectal cancer that had spread to her liver by the time treatment began, in 2004. Mrs. Varner died in 2008.

Medical Malpractice Vs. Wrongful Death in MD

The Circuit Court of Washington County dismissed the claims as time barred. Under Maryland’s medical malpractice statute of limitations, a claim against a doctor must be made within 5 years of the injury, or within 3 years of the injury being discovered. Any claim Mrs. Varner’s family brought for medical malpractice, then, must necessarily be in violation of the statute and dismissed. The alleged injury occurred sometime between 1997 and 2004, and the suit was filed in 2011. Even if the injury occurred in 2004 (which, allegedly, it did not), the claim was filed 7 years from the injury, much longer than the statute allows.

Compare this with the wrongful death statute. Maryland allows survivors to file a claim against a defendant for acts or negligence that result in death within 3 years of the death of the decedent. Since Mrs. Varner passed in 2008, the suit filed by her family was not time-barred, and so the Court of Appeals reversed the Circuit Court’s decision.

Dr. Alizadeh argued that the statute of limitations for medical malpractice should apply to this case, and thus it should be dismissed. The Court of Appeals dismissed this argument for a number of reasons, the most pertinent being that the interpretation Dr. Alizadeh suggests would be absurd. Truly, it makes little sense to deny a wrongful death claim to a family when they would have to file the claim before anyone actually dies.

What This Means For You

If you live in Maryland, Virginia, or Washington, DC, and you believe you have been the victim of medical malpractice, it is vital that you contact an experienced personal injury lawyer immediately. Time is of the essence, and not just because of statutes of limitation. Evidence gets lost or destroyed, witness’ memories get hazy, and injuries get progressively worse. Contact a Maryland medical malpractice attorney today.

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