The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland (“Maryland Appellate Court”), in its unreported opinion filed on October 1, 2018, reinstated a $3,707,000 verdict in favor of the estate of a man who died from a myocardial infarction (heart attack) that the Baltimote medical malpractice jury had determined was due to the gross negligence of the Baltimore City EMTs who had responded to the decedent’s home.
Gross negligence is an intentional failure to perform a manifest duty in reckless disregard of the consequences as affecting the life or property of another, and also implies a thoughtless disregard of the consequences without the exertion of any effort to avoid them. In order to claim that a party has acted with gross negligence, it must be pled that the party acted with wanton and reckless disregard for others; a wrongdoer is guilty of gross negligence or acts wantonly and willfully only when they inflict injury intentionally or is indifferent to the rights of others, that he acts as if such rights do not exist.
“Willful” and “Wanton”
Willful misconduct is performed with the actor’s actual knowledge or with what the law deems the equivalent to actual knowledge of the peril to be apprehended, coupled with a conscious failure to avert injury. By contrast, a wanton act is one performed with reckless indifference to its potential injurious consequences. The term “wanton” generally denotes conduct that is extremely dangerous and outrageous, in reckless disregard for the rights of others.
Generally, whether there is gross negligence depends on the facts and the circumstances of each case and is typically a question for the jury.
In the case it was deciding, the Maryland Appellate Court held that there existed evidence that could lead the jury to find gross negligence, including the testimony of the hospital emergency room physician that when he first witnessed the decedent seated in a wheelchair in the hallway just inside the ambulance entryway to the emergency room, the decedent was slumped over, unresponsive, and without a pulse; the defendant Baltimore EMT’s testimony that she understood if a patient complained of chest pains they were going to get certain levels of treatment that the decedent was not allowed; the Captain of Emergency Medical Services for the Baltimore City Fire Department testified that before a patient is moved, all EMS providers must question each patient as to the reason for each call, the duration, nature, and location of their symptoms. Moreover, they are required to inquire about their activities at the time the symptoms appeared, past medical history, and any medication used. Further, he confirmed that all EMTs are trained to recognize that patients who are clutching their chest, having trouble speaking or breathing, sweating, or are complaining of chest pain or heartburn-like symptoms may be suffering from Acute Coronary Syndrome (a reduction of blood flow to the heart).
The Maryland Appellate Court held that it is clear from the testimony provided at trial that both defendant EMTs knew or should have known that the decedent’s symptoms were, at the very least, signs of Acute Coronary Syndrome. While the EMTs contend that the decedent did not complain of chest pain, there are records and documentation that indicate that they knew of the decedent’s chest pain and that they had knowledge of the decedent’s wife’s 911 call describing her husband’s chest pain, as well as the pain he was experiencing under his right arm and in his throat. As such, the Maryland Appellate Court held that a jury could reasonably conclude that the defendant EMTs were grossly negligent in failing to administer the proper aid required to treat Acute Coronary Syndrome.
The Maryland Appellate Court further held that a jury could have reasonably found that the EMTs employed none of their training in the case of the decedent, and that these were not well-intentioned, accidental, medical decisions made under emergency circumstances. A jury could have found these facts show a deliberate choice not to render medical care or a failure to perform a manifest duty in reckless disregard of the consequences affecting the life of another. The Maryland Appellate Court held that there was sufficient evidence adduced at trial for the jury to have found the defendant EMTs acted with gross negligence in their treatment of the decedent.
Source Butler v. Stracke, No. 238, September Term, 2016.
If you or a loved one suffered serious harm as a result of medical malpractice in Baltimore, in Maryland, or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a Maryland medical malpractice lawyer, or a medical malpractice lawyer in your state, who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
Visit our website or call us toll-free in the United States at 800-295-3959 to find medical malpractice attorneys in your state who may assist you.
Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.