A bill introduced in the Maryland House of Delegates on February 6, 2014, if passed and signed into law as presently worded, would triple Maryland’s cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases where there has been a “catastrophic injury.” If signed into law, it’s provisions would apply to medical malpractice causes of action filed on or after October 1, 2014.
Maryland’s current cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases is $740,000 (the cap is increased automatically by $15,000 on January 1 of each year for causes of action arising in that year; for wrongful death claims where there are two or more beneficiaries, the cap is 125% of the cap, which means that it is currently $925,000).
HB 1009 defines a “catastrophic injury” as either death or permanent impairment. Permanent impairment under the Bill means (1) spinal cord injury associated with severe paralysis of an arm, a leg, or the trunk or loss of continence of the bowel or bladder; (2) amputation of an arm, a hand, a foot, or a leg involving the effective loss of use of that appendage; (3) severe brain or closed-head injury as evidenced by: (A) severe sensory or motor disturbances; (B) severe communication disturbances; (C) severe complex integrated disturbances of cerebral function; (D) severe episodic neurological disorders; or (E) other brain or closed-head injury conditions that alone or in combination are at least as severe in nature as a single condition described in items A through D of this item; (4) severe injury to a major internal organ that interferes with the ability to perform activities of daily living or shortens life expectancy; (5) blindness (which means moderate to total visual impairment that is not correctable by standard glasses, contact lenses, medication, or surgery and that interferes with the ability to perform activities of daily living); (6) loss of reproductive organs that results in an inability to procreate; (7) severe physical deformity; or (8) moderate to major burns as classified under guidelines issued by the American Burn Association.
HB 1009 would add the following language to the current law: “If the jury awards an amount for noneconomic damages that exceeds the limitation established under subsection (B)(2) or (3) of this section, on motion of a party the court shall determine whether a catastrophic injury occurred” and “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, if a court in a posttrial motion or a health claims arbitration panel under Section 3-2A-05 of this Article determines that the defendant’s negligence or other wrongful conduct caused at least one catastrophic injury, the limitation on noneconomic damages established under paragraph (2) of this subsection shall be tripled.”
HB 1009 was cross-filed in the Maryland Senate (SB 789). Nonetheless, HB 1009 has a long way to go if and when it becomes law. Large health care organizations and other interested parties in Maryland have already begun their efforts to derail the bill.
If you or a family member may have suffered serious injuries or other substantial harm as a result of medical malpractice in Maryland or in another U.S. state, you should promptly seek the legal advice of a Maryland malpractice attorney or a malpractice attorney in your state who may investigate your medical negligence claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice claim, if appropriate.
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