A bill pending in the Maryland House of Delegates, if approved and signed into law (a big “if” in Maryland), would triple Maryland’s limit on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases for catastrophic injuries.
House Bill 398 defines a catastrophic injury as death, or permanent impairment caused by: spinal cord injury associated with severe paralysis of an arm, a leg, or the trunk or loss of continence of the bowel or bladder; amputation of an arm, a hand, a foot, or a leg involving the effective loss of use of that appendage; severe brain or closed-head injury; blindness; loss of reproductive organs that results in an inability to procreate; or major burns as classified under guidelines issued by the American Burn Association. The increase in the Maryland cap on noneconomic damages for catastrophic injuries would take effect for causes of action that arise on or after October 1, 2015.
During a March 11, 2015 hearing on House Bill 398, plaintiffs’ attorneys and defense attorneys sparred over the proposed increase in the amount of the Maryland cap on noneconomic damages:
Maryland plaintiffs’ lawyers note that “Currently, jury verdicts in personal injury and medical malpractice actions are capped by Maryland law. In all such cases, a jury verdict for non-economic damages may not exceed the applicable cap. However, the same cap applies regardless of the severity of injury, or the duration of disability suffered by the victim of wrongdoing or negligence.” They argue that “Raising the cap for the most severely injured victims compensates those victims and their survivors more fairly, while still preventing a “runaway jury” situation. The statute also acts as a disincentive to wrongdoing that might cause catastrophic injuries, which makes all Marylanders safer and helps to prevent catastrophic injuries from happening in the first place.”
Maryland defense attorneys argue that “Noneconomic damages are entirely subjective, difficult to define, and often unrelated to the severity of the physical injury sustained … These kinds of injuries – whether connected with a catastrophic injury or a minor one – do not lend themselves to monetary valuation and tend to be influenced instead by sympathy, which is not a proper measure of damages. Having a cap on these damages rightfully limits the prejudice created by juror sympathy without having a similar effect on damages meant to compensate plaintiffs for actual expenses they have incurred by virtue of their injuries. Put simply, a meaningful cap on noneconomic damages is necessary, and tripling it as this bill proposes would essentially defeat the protective element of the cap.”
Interestingly, Maryland’s House Judiciary Committee was also considering House Bill 817 on March 11, 2015, which would reduce the cap on noneconomic damages to $500,000 in medical malpractice cases (currently, the Maryland cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases is $755,000 ($943,750 in wrongful death cases), which increases by $15,000 annually as of October 1st of each year).
If you or a family member may have been injured (or worse) in Maryland due to medical negligence, you should promptly find a Maryland medical malpractice lawyer who may investigate your Maryland medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a Maryland medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
Visit our website or call us toll-free at 800-295-3959 to find Maryland malpractice attorneys, or medical malpractice attorneys in your U.S. state, who may assist you.
Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.