Maryland Senate Bill 36 proposes to increase the cap on noneconomic damages in Maryland medical malpractice wrongful death claims where there are two or more claimants or beneficiaries, for causes of action that arise after October 1, 2018, to up to 450% of the applicable cap from the current 125% cap. Senate Bill 36 would also allow a jury to be informed of the limitations on noneconomic damages.
Current Maryland Law Regarding Maryland Medical Malpractice Claims
For health care malpractice actions (Maryland medical malpractice claims), the cap for noneconomic damages was set at $650,000 for causes of action arising between January 1, 2005 and December 31, 2008, increasing by $15,000 each year, beginning on January 1, 2009. Under current law, for causes of action arising in 2018, the cap on noneconomic damages for Maryland medical malpractice claims is $800,000.
The cap for noneconomic damages applies in the aggregate to all claims for personal injury and wrongful death arising from the same medical injury, regardless of the number of claims, claimants, plaintiffs, beneficiaries, or defendants. However, for a wrongful death action in which there are two or more claimants or beneficiaries, the total amount awarded may not exceed 125% of the cap, or $1.0 million in 2018.
Current Maryland Law Regarding Personal Injury Claims Other Than Medical Malpractice Claims
Under current Maryland law, in an action for damages for personal injury or wrongful death (excluding health care malpractice), the cap is $860,000 for causes of action arising on or after October 1, 2018, and increases by $15,000 a year.
The cap on noneconomic damages applies in a personal injury action (other than Maryland medical malpractice claims) to each direct victim of tortious conduct and all persons who claim injury through that victim. The cap also applies separately to a personal injury action and wrongful death action, so that damages may be aggregated. However, in a wrongful death action in which there are two or more claimants or beneficiaries, an award of noneconomic damages may not exceed 150% of the applicable cap, regardless of the number of claimants or beneficiaries. In a jury trial, a jury may not be informed of these limitations.
The Effects Of Senate Bill 36
Senate Bill 36 increases the noneconomic damages cap for a wrongful death or survival action award from an arbitration panel, or a verdict resulting from judicial review of an arbitration award, in a health care malpractice action that arises on or after October 1, 2018. Thus, the cap would be $860,000 (rather than $800,000) for an action that arises on October 1, 2018. The cap continues to increase by $15,000 a year.
Senate Bill 36 also increases the cap for a wrongful death action with two or more claimants or beneficiaries in both health care malpractice and general civil actions. Thus, the cap would be 450% of $860,000, or approximately $3.9 million (rather than $1.0 million for a health care malpractice action or $1.3 million in a general civil action) for an action that arises on October 1, 2018. These caps continue to increase each year.
Senate Bill 36 excludes an award from an arbitration panel, or a verdict resulting from judicial review of an arbitration award, for wrongful death in a health care malpractice action from the existing aggregation limitations in health care malpractice actions. Thus, for an action that arises on October 1, 2018, total damages for a survival action and wrongful death action could reach more than $1.7 million in actions with one claimant or beneficiary ($860,000 for the survival action and $860,000 for the wrongful death action), or more than $4.7 million in actions with two or more claimants or beneficiaries ($860,000 for the survival action and approximately $3.9 million for the wrongful death action).
You can read Senate Bill 36 in its entirety here.
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