The Maryland Litigation Blog

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21 Maryland Medical Malpractice Cases in One Month

By Byron Warnken, on August 6, 2014

In June of 2014, there were only 21 Medical Malpractice lawsuits filed in Maryland Circuit Courts.  Of those 21 cases, only 3 med mal firms filed more than a single case. Salsbury, Clements, Bekman, Marder & Adkins, L.L.C. filed three cases, Schochor, Frederico and Staton P.A. filed two, and Snyder and Snyder filed two.

Other lawyers and firms included Julia Arfaa, Miller & Zois, David Ellin, and Wais, Vogelstein & Forman to name just a few.  A few of the defendants sued were Frederick Memorial Hospital, Johns Hopkins, Sinai Hospital, and University of Maryland.  Surprisingly, only two of the suits were in Baltimore City.  It could be that defendants are more likely to settle pre-suit in Baltimore City cases because of the reputation of Baltimore juries.  It could also be that the Baltimore City jury being so favorable is a myth.  It could also be that one month is simply too small a sample size to be able to tell anything.  Four cases were filed in Baltimore County Circuit Court in Towson.  The rest of the suits were sprinkled throughout the state, often in counties generally thought of as pro defense.

It’s important to note that medical malpractice cases in Maryland courts only represent lawsuits.  Not every med mal claim or demand becomes a lawsuit.  (Conversely, not every malpractice lawsuit represents a payout.  In fact, many cases, as has been said here before, lose.)  Moreover, some Maryland counties list cases in different ways.  For instance, there is one listed instance of professional malpractice, which may or may not have been medical.  There were also 122 cases described as “Other Torts.”  Depending on the county, these can represent med mal cases as well.

Despite only 21 lawsuits listed “medical malpractice,” Maryland’s medical malpractice industry is still large.  For instance, medical malpractice payouts in 2012 were in the $100-300 million range. Since attorneys charging contingency fees (like medical malpractice lawyers) take over a third of the payout in each case, Maryland medical malpractice lawyers pocketed about $40 million in 2012 alone.

Nationwide, 2012 saw $3.6 billion in payouts for medical malpractice.

In the United States, the patient alleging medical malpractice must generally prove four elements or legal requirements to make out a successful claim of medical malpractice. These elements include: (1) the existence of a legal duty on the part of the doctor to provide care or treatment to the patient; (2) a breach of this duty by a failure of the treating doctor to adhere to the standards of the profession; (3) a causal relationship between such breach of duty and injury to the patient; and (4) the existence of damages that flow from the injury such that the legal system can provide redress.

Despite preventable medical errors killing as many as 98,000 Americans every year and injuring countless more, few injured patients ever file a medical negligence lawsuit, and fewer still file frivolous claims. In 2013, 93% of all Maryland cases settled before going to a jury verdict, evidence that almost all medical negligence claims are meritorious. Claims where there was no error are rarely paid and researchers have concluded the reverse – errors which are never compensated – is a far bigger problem.

Plaintiff lawyers are not the only ones profiting from medical malpractice lawsuits. The defense lawyers charge their clients hourly, often more than $350/hour. Accordingly, there is little incentive for the defense attorneys to close the cases quickly – a typical case lasts about 2 years, during which time generally no one but the defense lawyers are getting paid. Over this period, defense attorneys, in addition to the plaintiff attorneys, incur research expenses, expert witness fees, and overhead costs.

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