In its unreported decision filed on December 22, 2015, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland (“Appellate Court”) reversed the trial court’s granting judgment notwithstanding the verdict to the defendant neurosurgeon in a Maryland medical malpractice case in which the jury had awarded the plaintiff $926,640.46 ($10,690.23 for past medical expenses, $2,630.00 for funeral expenses, $450,000.00 for the decedent’s pain and suffering, and $463,320.23 to the decedent’s mother for her pain and suffering).
The Underlying Facts
The plaintiff’s son was hospitalized in Maryland from June 26, 2010 to June 28, 2010 during which he suffered a seizure that allegedly resulted in his death. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant neurosurgeon, who participated in the care of her son while he was hospitalized, breached the standard of care when he made the decision not to prophylactically administer anti-seizure medication to her son (and by failing to transfer her son back to the intensive care unit on the morning of June 28, 2010). The plaintiff’s Maryland medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit sought economic damages for medical and funeral expenses and noneconomic damages for the pain and suffering of both the plaintiff and her son.
Subsequent to the jury’s verdict in favor of the plaintiff, the defense filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, arguing that the evidence adduced at trial did not support the jury’s finding that the son experienced conscious pain and suffering, thus requesting that the $450,000.00 awarded for the son’s pain and suffering be stricken. However, the defense motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict did not raise any issues relating to the standard of care or causation.
The trial court granted the defense motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, but on entirely different grounds than those raised by the defense, granting relief much broader than that requested by the defendant, setting aside the jury’s verdict in its entirety and entering judgment in favor of the defendant (the trial court concluded that no reasonable trier of fact could have found that the defendant breached the standard of care and that any suggested breach was a causative factor in the son’s death). The plaintiff appealed.
The Appellate Court held that because the anti-seizure medication issue was not raised with particularity before the trial court, the trial court erred by considering the issue. The Appellate Court further held, in the alternative, that the trial court’s substantive determination that no reasonable jury could have found that the the plaintiff had proved malpractice was erroneous (the plaintiff’s expert had testified at trial that the defendant neurosurgeon breached the standard of care by failing to prescribe anti-seizure medication and that the son’s death was caused by the defendant’s failure to prescribe anti-seizure medication).
The Appellate Court stated that the plaintiff’s expert’s testimony, though general and at times superficial, particularly when compared to the detailed testimony provided by the defense experts, was legally competent evidence based upon which the jury could have determined that the defendant breached the standard of care by failing to administer anti-seizure medication and that the failure to administer anti-seizure medication caused the son’s death. Therefore, the Appellate Court determined that the trial court erred by concluding that no reasonable fact-finder could have found that the defendant neurosurgeon breached the standard of care in this case.
Source Gibau v. Falik, No. 2442.
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