Maryland Judge Refuses to Apply Cap on $3 Million Jury Award in Medical Mistake Case

In a prior post, the attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have discussed Maryland’s statutory cap on non-economic damages and how this limitation impacts Maryland injury victims. A recent court decision, however, has drawn attention to Maryland’s limit on non-economic damages in certain medical malpractice cases.

In Semsker v. Lockshin, a jury found a Silver Spring dermatologist and his practice group liable for the death of Richard Semsker. In 2004, Dr. Lockshin’s office treated Semsker for boils on his back and conducted a full body examination for other possible skin issues. During the examination, Lockshin’s associate, Michael Albert, M.D., noted two cysts and an abnormal mole on Semsker’s lower back. Dr. Albert removed the boil and two cysts. However, the dermatologist did not excise the abnormal mole and recommended monitoring only. Over the next two years, the abnormal mole became cancerous and the cancer spread throughout Semsker’s body, and he died at the age of 47, in October 2007. The family later sued the Dr. Albert, and his practice group.

The jury awarded Semsker’s wife and children over $5.8 million in damages, including $3 million in compensation for the family’s mental anguish. Under the state’s limitation on non-economic damages, the $3 million award for pain and suffering would have been reduced to $812,500. However, Judge John W. Deblius III of Montgomery County refused to apply the cap to the Semskers’ damages award. Judge Deblius ruled that the cap did not apply to medical malpractice cases in which the parties did not first attempt arbitration.

The statutory limitation on damages, particularly in Maryland medical malpractice cases, only help insurance companies increase profits and do not make patients in Maryland safer or reduce health care costs. Maryland medication mistake attorneys hope that other Maryland judges will adopt Judge Deblius’ interpretation of the statute in order to allow medical malpractice victims to get the full and fair compensation for the injuries they sustain.

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Maryland Daily Record

Associated Press

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