February 23, 2022

Proposed legislation in Maryland seeks to add “pharmacists” to the definition of “health care provider” so that their financial interests are protected at the expense of the most seriously harmed victims of their negligence, and so that they also enjoy the significant procedural and substantive hurdles and obstacles placed in the path of medical malpractice victims in Maryland seeking justice for the harms they suffered.

Maryland House Bill 1219 would amend the Annotated Code of Maryland, Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, Section 3–2A–01(f)(1) to specifically include pharmacists as protected health care providers: ““Health care provider” means a hospital, a related institution as defined in § 19–301 of the Health – General Article, a medical day care center, a hospice care program, an assisted living program, a freestanding ambulatory care facility as defined in § 19–3B–01 of the Health – General Article, a physician, an osteopath, an optometrist, a chiropractor, a registered or licensed practical nurse, a dentist, a podiatrist, a psychologist, a licensed certified social worker–clinical, [and] a physical therapist, AND A PHARMACIST, licensed or authorized to provide one or more health care services in Maryland.”

What is the significance of adding pharmacists to the definition of “health care provider” for Maryland medical malpractice claims?

Specified health care providers in Maryland are granted the financial benefit of a limit on their financial responsibility for the harms they cause their patients: “an award or verdict under this subtitle for noneconomic damages for a cause of action arising between January 1, 2005, and December 31, 2008, inclusive, may not exceed $650,000,” which amount is increased by $15,000 annually. Furthermore, claims against Maryland “health care providers” for medical malpractice are burdened by additional requirements that financially encumber medical malpractice victims, such as the requirement to obtain an expert qualified under Maryland’s restrictive medical malpractice law to file “a certificate of a qualified expert with the Director attesting to departure from standards of care, and that the departure from standards of care is the proximate cause of the alleged injury, within 90 days from the date of the complaint” and the additional requirement that a further certificate be filed before trial (“Within 15 days after the date that discovery is required to be completed, a party shall file with the court a supplemental certificate of a qualified expert, for each defendant, that attests to: (i) The certifying expert’s basis for alleging what is the specific standard of care; (ii) The certifying expert’s qualifications to testify to the specific standard of care; (iii) The specific standard of care; (iv) For the plaintiff: 1. The specific injury complained of; 2. How the specific standard of care was breached; 3. What specifically the defendant should have done to meet the specific standard of care; and 4. The inference that the breach of the standard of care proximately caused the plaintiff’s injury;”).

In short, limiting noneconomic damages against negligent health care providers and substantially increasing the costs to medical malpractice victims in seeking compensation for the harms they suffered, as well as placing procedural hurdles in their path to obtaining justice, further victimize the victims of medical malpractice in Maryland by causing them unnecessary difficulties in finding medical malpractice lawyers in Maryland to represent them because of the costs associated with filing and litigating their claims — Maryland medical malpractice victims who suffer injuries and other losses may not be able to find a lawyer to represent them if their claims are “too small.” Adding pharmacists to the list of health care providers blessed with the cloak of protection under Maryland’s medical malpractice law is unfair – is there any evidence that pharmacists need the financial golden ticket for claims against them in Maryland?

If you or a loved one have been harmed by a doctor, hospital, or other health care provider in Maryland or in another U.S. state, you should promptly seek the advice of a Maryland medical malpractice lawyer, or a medical malpractice lawyer in your state, who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.

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