The Maryland Court of Appeals has held that the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims starts to run at the date of the death, even if a medical malpractice claim would have been time-barred at that point. This decision opens the door for families who have lost loved ones due to improper medical care but did not assert a claim in time to meet Maryland’s three-year negligence statute of limitations.

In Mummert v. Alizdeh, the family of a woman who died of colorectal cancer sued the doctor who had been treating her for several years prior to her death. Starting in 1997, the woman reported symptoms consistent with colorectal cancer, but the defendant doctor did not order tests and did not diagnose the cancer until 2004. By that time, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice had long expired. The woman received treatment, but died from her condition in 2008.

Attorneys for the doctor argued that because a medical malpractice claim could not have been brought after approximately 2000, the same calendar applies for wrongful death actions arising from the same conduct. The court disagreed and confirmed that the wrongful death statute of limitation runs from the date of the individual’s death, not the negligence that allegedly contributed to it.

Maryland law authorizes two types of suits relating to the loss of a loved one. Survival actions are brought by the estate of the deceased person and seek recovery for pain suffered by the victim and estate expenses such as funeral costs. Wrongful death actions pursue compensation for losses suffered by the family including lost wages and companionship. Even if the negligent conduct started a long time ago, contact Mudd, Mudd & Fitzgerald, P.A. in La Plata if you believe someone is at fault for the wrongful death of a family member.