E-Alert Case Updates
Plaintiff’s Premature Death Does not Alter an Award of Future Medical Expenses
Spangler v. McQuitty
In Spangler v. McQuitty, the Maryland Court of Appeals addressed the question of whether the court should reduce a jury award of future medical care for a plaintiff who dies after the trial, but before post-trial motions. The Court held that Plaintiff’s post trial death could not be considered in Defendant’s motion for remittitur because if judgments were subject to revision, then litigation could continue indefinitely.
The Spangler opinion represents the second time that this case has made its way to the Maryland Court of Appeals and the second time Semmes has written on this case. It is a medical malpractice case in which Plaintiff contends that Dr. Spangler failed to obtain Peggy McQuitty’s informed consent in her treatment, after which Ms. McQuitty suffered a complete placental abruption that resulted in severe injuries to her child during his birth. The jury awarded Plaintiff $13,078,515.00 in damages, including $8,442,515.00 in future medical expenses. Dr. Spangler filed a motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict on the basis that there was no “affirmative invasion of physical integrity,” which the trial court granted. Dr. Spangler appealed the decision, which the Court of Appeals eventually overturned and remanded to the trial court on the grounds that an “affirmative invasion of physical integrity” was not required under Maryland law.
After the case was remanded, but before Dr. Spangler had an opportunity to file any additional post-trial motions, Plaintiff passed away. After Plaintiff passed away, Dr. Spangler filed another Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict on the basis that: (1) it would be inequitable to let the judgment stand since the Court of Appeals changed Maryland law; and (2) the Court should reduce the award for future medical expenses since Plaintiff died. The trial court denied both motions, and Dr. Spangler appealed for the second time.
The Court of Appeals first addressed whether it would be inequitable to let the judgment stand in light of its ruling on the first motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict. The Court found that it did not change Maryland law when it held that an affirmative invasion of integrity was not required to support a claim of informed consent. Instead, it merely interpreted Maryland law. Secondly, the Court of Appeals reminded Defendant that the trial court denied his Motion for Summary Judgment on that issue pre-trial. Therefore, he should have been able to reasonably anticipate that Maryland law did not require an affirmative invasion of integrity.
The Court of Appeals then addressed whether Plaintiff’s post-judgment death provided sufficient grounds to reduce the verdict. The Court of Appeals reasoned that it could not reopen the judgment based upon events that occurred post-judgment, even if those events occurred prior to post-trial motions. The Court reasoned that if it reopened the judgment, then all litigation would continue indefinitely, which would cause an absurd result. Therefore, the Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s denial of both motions.
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