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MUMMERT vs. ALIZADEH, — A.3d —, 2013, WL 5663105 ( Md. 2013). On October 18, 2013, the Maryland Court of Appeals — the state’s highest court —delivered a precedential ruling on the applicability of the state’s limitation and repose statutes to lawsuits for wrongful death that allegedly resulted from medical malpractice.
Facts: A family doctor failed to address his patient’s cancer symptoms between 1997 and 2004.
In 2004, the patient was diagnosed with cancer that could not be treated successfully. The patient died of cancer on March 14th, 2008. On March 8th, 2011, the patient’s surviving family members
filed a wrongful death action against the doctor, who claimed in defense that the wrongful death action was time-barred. The defendant doctor relied on the Maryland 3-year statute of limitations period set for wrongful death actions generally and on Maryland’s Health Care Malpractice Claims Act that sets two alternative expiration dates for lawsuits against physicians : within ” (1) Five years of the time the injury was committed, or (2) within three years of the date the injury was discovered.” [ Section 5-109 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article of the Maryland Code].
The trial court dismissed both defenses and allowed the plaintiffs to proceed with their lawsuit.
The trial court properly ruled that the wrongful death action — that amasses all death-related damages — had not expired because it was filed six days prior to the end of the 3-year limitations period. The also dismissed the doctor’s defensive claims for other unrelated reasons.
The trial court also properly ruled that the repose statute does not bar the plaintiffs ‘ wrongful death action because it refers to suits for ” injury” as opposed to ” death”. The Court opined that medical malpractice that kills the patient is not subject to repose.