Montgomery County Judge holds that Medical Malpractice Cap Does Not Apply In All Cases

Judge John W. Debelius III, a Montgomery County Circuit court judge, held that the state’s limit on medical malpractice awards only applies to lawsuits that were first submitted to arbitration. In November 2008, a jury awarded $5.8 million in the death of 47-year-old Richard H. Semsker whose untreated mole turned into skin cancer that spread to his brain. The award included $3 million in compensation for anguish he, his wife and two daughters endured during his illness and his death. That portion would have been reduced to the statutory limit of $812,500 if the cap had been applied.

Judge Debelius, in Rockville, found that the 2004 Maryland Patient’s Access to Quality Health Care Act’s cap has an exception for the cases that did not first go to voluntary arbitration. He stated that the change in wording in the legislation “had the effect of narrowing the ambit of the statute from general application to all medical malpractice actions to application to only certain medical-malpractice actions. The current cap for non-economic damages in med-mal cases is $665,000 for cases with one claimant and $831,000 for those with multiple claimants while in other personal injury actions the cap is $710,000 per beneficiary.

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