Maryland Court Dismisses Medical Malpractice Claim Against Baltimore Paramedics
Maryland’s highest court recently dismissed a claim involving medical malpractice and wrongful death against several paramedics, according to a decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals. These paramedics worked for the Baltimore City Fire Department (BCFD).
In order to comprehend the significance of this decision, it will be necessary to review the factual background of the underlying case. Then it will be possible to engage in a legal analysis of the appellate court’s decision.
At approximately 1 a.m. on March 2, 2011, a Baltimore man woke up suddenly as a result of severe chest pain. His wife dialed 911 and requested immediate medical assistance.
Two BCFD paramedics departed immediately after the 911 call for the man’s address. But due to a dispatch error, they arrived on the correct street but at the wrong address, The paramedics were able to locate the Baltimore man shortly thereafter, at approximately 1:20 a.m.
The paramedics’ initial visual assessment of the man was that he appeared to be in normal condition. Then the paramedics measured the man’s blood pressure, heart rate, and blood oxygen levels inside the ambulance. They also checked the man’s pupils, pulse, and lungs, all of which seemed normal.
Considering the man’s consistent complaints of chest pain, however, the paramedics transported him directly to the nearest hospital. At approximately 1:27 a.m., the paramedics arrived at the hospital and used a wheelchair to take the Baltimore man into the emergency room.
After waiting approximately 10 minutes in the emergency room, the Baltimore man lost consciousness and fell from the wheelchair. Hospital staff attempted to treat the man. But he never regained consciousness. An autopsy determined that the cause of death was a heart attack.
During the initial trial, the Circuit Court for Baltimore City determined that the Fire and Rescue Company Act granted the paramedics civil immunity. Though if the paramedics demonstrated gross negligence, they could face civil liability.
At the conclusion of the trial, the jury determined that the paramedics acted in a grossly negligent manner, which ultimately caused the Baltimore man’s death. But the Circuit Court overruled the jury verdict, stating that there was insufficient evidence to prove willful or gross negligence.
On appeal, the Court of Special Appeals reviewed the case and reversed the Circuit Court’s decision. The Court of Special Appeals determined that there was enough evidence to support a finding of gross negligence. Consequently, there was an order to reinstate the jury verdict.
Upon further appeal, the Court of Appeals reviewed this case. The Court of Appeals explained that gross negligence requires an intentional failure and a reckless disregard for human life or property. In this case, the paramedics performed an assessment, measured the patient’s vitals, and conducted immediate transport to a hospital — all within approximately seven minutes.
Taken as a whole, the paramedics engaged in a reasonable course of action in treating the Baltimore man. Even though the man later died, the paramedics should not be held responsible, as their actions did not amount to gross negligence.
Do You Need Legal Help?
If you need legal help with a medical malpractice claim in Maryland, it can be extraordinarily constructive to contact an experienced Baltimore personal injury attorney. The attorneys at Iamele & Iamele, LLP have many years of combined legal experience in matters of personal injury, including medical malpractice. If you need legal help, contact us today for a free initial consultation.