Maryland court of appeals affirms medical malpractice caps

side note: The Maryland Court of Appeals has upheld the state’s non-economic damage cap, but I’d be surprised if this is the last we hear of the case. The next likely step will be appealing to the state supreme court. This is the pattern played out in other states across the country.

ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland Court of Appeals affirmed the state’s caps on malpractice awards in a ruling Tuesday, overturning a decision by a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge.

The case involved Silver Spring dermatologist Dr. Norman A. Lockshin, who was sued for malpractice in 2008 by a family of a Rockville lawyer, Richard Semsker, who died of skin cancer. The jury awarded the family $5.8 million, a figure that according to the caps, should have been reduced to $3.5 million.

Lockshin’s attorney was not immediately available for comment.

Circuit Court Judge John W. Debelius III ruled the caps applied only to cases that have first gone through arbitration. That didn’t happen in this case, and he allowed the jury award.

His decision, in effect, invalidated caps that were part of a 2004 special session of the General Assembly called to resolve a crisis in medical malpractice. Insurance rates were climbing and doctors were threatening to leave Maryland. The tightened caps were seen as a way to lower insurance rates.

The appeals court ruled the caps applied to all malpractice cases.

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