Friday, March 16, 2007

Swam v. Upper Chesapeake Medical Center (Ct. of Appeals)

Filed March 16, 2007 -- Opinion by Judge John Eldridge (Judges Cathell and Harrell Concur)

The Court of Appeals held that the general statute of limitations did not bar a claim initially filed in the wrong forum, the Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office ("Health Care Office"), and subsequently filed in the appropriate forum, the Circuit Court for Harford County. Plaintiffs-appellants, Mary C. Swam and Scott Swam, filed a claim with the Health Care Office for alleged personal injury resulting from an abandoned hypodermic syringe on the premises of Upper Chesapeake Medical Center, Inc. Although Swam’s injury was not a medical injury within the meaning of the Health Claims Act and thus was not properly filed with the Health Care Office, the Court held that the claim was not time-barred even though it was not filed in the circuit court until after the general statute of limitations had run. According to the Court, the policy supporting the tolling exception rule was satisfied by the ambiguity regarding the appropriate forum for a medically-related claim and basic fairness to the parties. The Court noted that Upper Chesapeake would suffer no unfairness because it already had notice of the claim prior to the expiration of the limitations period.

In a concurring opinion, Judge Cathell expressly disavowed any holding that an action begun in an executive branch agency could toll the running of a statute of limitations applicable to judicial branch proceedings. Judge Cathell would reach the same result based on holding that Upper Chesapeake waived the defense of limitations by not raising it prior to or in its answer. Judge Harrell joined in the concurring opinion.

The opinion can be found in PDF here.

No comments: