Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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On June 10, 2015, Partners Michael P. Smith and Ryan S. Perlin obtained a Plaintiffs’ verdict on behalf of their clients in a negligence case tried in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County in Rockville, Maryland.

TheCircuitCourt

Rockville, Maryland

Smith and Perlin represented a young man with emotional and behavioral disabilities, who was a resident at a residential treatment center which specialized in providing psychiatric treatment for adolescents.  When the plaintiff was fifteen years old, staff members improperly physically restrained him in violation of applicable deescalation and restraint guidelines.  As a result, the plaintiff suffered detached retinas in both eyes.  He required eight subsequent retinal and corneal operations to repair the detachments and cataracts that developed subsequently.  Even with corrective lenses, his vision will never be 20/20, which is what it was before his injuries.

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The Court of Special Appeals, Maryland’s intermediate appellate court, today upheld a $1.3 million verdict in a case tried by SCBMA partners, Michael Smith and Ryan Perlin, in an unreported opinion.  The medical malpractice case was originally tried in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County for one week in April 2014.  After two days of deliberations, the jury issued a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs for $2.13 million, which was automatically reduced because of Maryland’s statutory cap on noneconomic damages.

Mr. Smith and Mr. Perlin represent the Watt family in the case.  Suit was originally filed on their behalf in 2012, after Mrs. Watt underwent surgery to repair a persistent hiatal hernia.  The first operation failed and her surgeon attempted a revision procedure.  During the revision, the surgeon negligently utilized a synthetic, plastic mesh to hold the hernia in place.

Mr. Smith and Mr. Perlin presented evidence through well-credentialed, board-certified general surgeons that it was negligent for the defendant surgeon to use the plastic mesh in the first place because it was well-known to erode into the body’s tissues and cause serious, possibly fatal, complications.  The experts also testified that the mesh was applied by the surgeon improperly.  As a result of the negligence, the mesh slowly eroded into and through Mrs. Watt’s esophagus, preventing her from eating other than through a tube.  She lost a significant amount of weight and required numerous subsequent surgeries and procedures.  She has also required at least six endoscopic gastrointestinal procedures during which a laser is inserted into her esophagus to burn away the eroded mesh.  Despite all of the procedures, Ms. Watt still has mesh in her chest and esophageal tissues.

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Today, on behalf of over 750 victims and family members, SCBMA filed a lawsuit against The Rockefeller Foundation, the Johns Hopkins Hospital, the Johns Hopkins University, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Johns Hopkins Health System Corporation, alleging that they were the primary driving force behind illegal and immoral human experiments in which vulnerable populations of Guatemalans were deceived, and intentionally exposed to syphilis, gonorrhea and other venereal diseases without treatment in the 1940s and 1950s.

The experiments targeted school children, orphans, psychiatric hospital patients, prison inmates and military conscripts.  In 2010, the Obama Administration apologized to Guatemala for the experiments and created a Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues to investigate them.

The Presidential Commission issued its findings in September 2011 along with a Study Guide.  There has also been considerable research and scholarship about the circumstances which led to the human experimentation, such as this article by Kayte Spector-Bagdady, J.D., M. Bioethics, and Paul Lombardo, Ph.D, J.D., who are, respectively, the Associate Director and a Senior Advisor to the Presidential Commission.

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Bekman, Marder & Adkins, L.L.C. is proud to announce that it has been named to the U.S. News and World Report “Best Law Firms” list.SCBMA Best Lawyers  Nationally, SCBMA was named to the Third Tier of the Best Law Firms in the are of Admiralty and Maritime Law.  In Maryland, SCBMA was named to the First Tier in the areas of Admiralty & Maritime Law, Arbitration, Mediation, Plaintiffs’ Medical Malpractice, Plaintiffs’ Personal Injury, and Plaintiffs’ Product Liability Litigation.

For the 2015 “Best Law Firms” list, U.S. News and World Report uses a rigorous evaluation process that includes client evaluations, lawyer evaluations, and peer review from local and national leading attorneys.  Additionally, before any law firm can be named in the “Best Law Firms” list, it must have at least one lawyer who is included in the U.S. News “Best Lawyers” list.  Our firm is proud to have four attorneys named to the “Best Lawyers” list including Paul D. Bekman, E. Dale Adkins, III, Daniel M. Clements, and Stuart M. Salsbury.

Our firm takes great pride in being selected by our peers and colleagues as one of the best law firms in Maryland.  If you would like to discuss a possible case with our lawyers, call us at 410-539-6633.

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Following up on a previous post regarding the reporting of preventable adverse events and transparency for patients choosing medical and hospital care, USA Today has today reported that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will resume reporting data on eight different “hospital acquired conditions,” including air embolism, blood incompatibility, catheter-associated infections, falls and trauma, retained foreign objects, pressure ulcers (bedsores), uncontrolled blood sugar levels, and urinary tract infections. CMS had stopped publicly reporting this data in early August of 2014, but recently changed course, demonstrating the power of the patient safety and transparency movement.

As consumers in the information age, we do research before making any significant purchase — houses, cars, schools, even refrigerators — so why not research our health care options? Choosing a doctor with whom you will have a relationship for many years, deciding whether to undergo a surgery, or deciding which nursing home to admit a loved one are important decisions that merit the same amount of investigation as other choices we make. Although information on health care quality and options is sparce, there are some sources out there, and we hope to see more of them in the coming years. For now, check out CMS’s Hospital Comparison Chart, which includes information collected by CMS regarding patient safety and quality of care at Maryland hospitals.

If you know of any other sources, share them with us!

 

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Here’s a link to Oklahoma Senator (and physician) Tom Coburn’s recent report on his investigation of Veterans’ Administration hospitals.  According to Senator Coburn, “Over the past decade, more than 1,000 veterans may have died as a result of the VA’s misconduct and the VA has paid out nearly $1 billion to veterans and their families for its medical malpractice.”

Here at SCBMA we are often asked to investigate, and do pursue cases against our local Baltimore VA Hospital, as well as at area military medical institutions such as Walter Reed.  Bringing medical malpractice claims against the VA is a highly specialized area of the law, and if you are thinking of doing so, it is critical that you hire lawyers who are experienced and knowledgeable about the legal deadlines and other special requirements in cases against the federal government and the VA.

Indeed, just last year, Paul Bekman and Michael Smith of our office succeeded in winning a $345,000 verdict in U.S. Federal Court against the VA Hospital in Baltimore.  The case involved the wrongful death of a 50 year old Veteran from acute blood loss caused by an undiagnosed aortoenteric fistula.  We successfully argued that the VA was responsible for the negligent acts of, among others, resident physicians affiliated with the University of Maryland Medical Center by virtue of a “resident agreement” in which residents treat Veterans at the VA Hospital.

 

 

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An exculpatory clause is a contractual provision that relieves a party from liability for any future negligent or wrongful act.  Maryland has long recognized that these clauses are valid and that two adults may contractually agree that one or more parties will not be liable for their own negligence.  Recently, however, the Court of Appeals of Maryland has taken this principle one step further and held that parents may sign an exculpatory clause on behalf of their minor children—in essence—agreeing that a company may negligently harm their children and not be held responsible for such conduct.

In BJ’s Wholesale Club, Inc. v. Rosen, Sept. Term 2012, No. 99 (Nov. 27, 2013), BJ Wholesale Club (BJ’s) provided a kids’ play area in its store so that parents could drop their kids off to play while the parents shopped.  Before allowing parents to take advantage of the play area, however, BJ’s required all parents to sign a contractual agreement on behalf of their children.  Included in this agreement was an exculpatory clause protecting BJ’s from any liability for injuries that may be suffered by the children while in the play area.  A child was then seriously injured while using the play area, and subsequently brought a claim alleging that BJ’s had negligently caused the injury.  Relying on the contractual exculpatory clause, BJ’s argued that it was free from all liability for the child’s injuries and the case was dismissed.  The Court of Appeals agreed.

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In addition to our beloved, if not stylish, yellow taxi cabs, road travelers in Baltimore now have several other options for getting from Point A to Point B locally: smartphone “taxi” companies Lyft and Uber.  Both started in San Francisco, Lyft and Uber are internet-based car companies that allow users to view nearby vehicles on a map on their smartphone, request one — and pay for it via credit card.  Lyft technically does not even charge for rides, but rather, accepts “donations” from passengers (your phone “suggests” an appropriate fare at the end of the ride), while Uber has pre-set fares and offers riders various levels of transportation, from small sedan to Town Car to SUV.

The question these new companies raise, however, is what, if any, responsibility does a Lyft or Uber driver have if he or she negligently causes an accident and injures his or her passenger?  The answer may not be what you would expect.  Lyft and Uber drivers are NOT employees of the corporations, and the vehicles they drive are not owned by the corporations either.  Instead, these corporations have taken the position that they are merely “networking” services that allow passengers to electronically “connect” with an independent driver willing to transport them.  And unlike the taxi cab industry, Lyft and Uber are not regulated by any state or federal agency to date.taxi-sign-22063772-300x200

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