Timely, Proper Filing of Medical Malpractice Claims Key to Success

When it comes to filing a successful claim of medical malpractice injury in Bangor, when and how you file is just as important as the substance of your lawsuit.
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That’s the lesson that can be derived from Frame v. Millinocket Regional Hospital, reviewed recently by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

The petitioner appealed a judgment entered by the lower-level superior court to dismiss her unsworn notice of claim to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, pursuant to the Main Health Security Act, as a properly-sworn claim was not filed within the statute of limitations.

A divided high court ultimately granted the petitioner another opportunity to file her medical malpractice claim. This kind of second chance is a rare exception, and not one upon which other petitioners can rely – no matter how seemingly egregious the extent of the negligence.

In fact, the case as it was reviewed by the state supreme court contains no extensive details as to the alleged negligence from which the petitioner reportedly suffered. Instead, it is considered as strictly a procedural matter.

Here’s what we know:

In the summer of 2011, the petitioner filed an unsworn notice of claim with the superior court, alleging that the Millinocket Regional Hospital and several doctors employed there had engaged in negligence inn providing her medical care for several days in 2008. Her unsworn claim was filed July 27, 2011 – just one week prior to the expiration of the three-year statute of limitations for her claim.

Then between late September and early October of that year, the petitioner filed an unsworn notice of claim with each of the defendants. In response, the hospital filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that the unsworn notice did not toll the statue of limitations. A pre-litigation panel, assigned by the superior court’s chief justice, denied that motion and gave the petitioner 10 days during which to file a sworn notice of claim, which would relate back to the date of her original notice. The hospital then requested reconsideration on the grounds that the panel lacked the jurisdictional authority to amend her notice. The chair of the panel then vacated her earlier order and referred the case directly to the chief justice.

In the meantime, the petitioner filed her sworn notice of claim, but the superior court in turn granted the hospitals’ motion to dismiss, citing an earlier Maine Supreme Court decision in Paradis v. Webber Hospital. That decision held that the notice of claim filed under the state’s health security act didn’t meet the proper requirements because it wasn’t appropriately sworn.

The petitioner filed a motion to reconsider, which the appellate court denied. The state supreme court subsequently agreed to review that decision.

The state supreme court sided with the petitioner, although it disagreed with her assertion that 24 M.R. . 2859 has no oath requirement.

The court instead noted that the pre-litigation panel did have the authority to decide the issue, and further did not abuse its discretion in granting the petitioner’s request to re-file her claim properly.

Of course, it’s worth noting that all of this could have likely been avoided had the petitioner filed the claim sooner. Further, an experienced injury lawyer can be invaluable in these cases in ensuring that such claims are properly filed.

If you are considering a medical malpractice claim in Bangor, contact us at 1-800-804-2004 or read more on our website.

Additional Resources:
Frame v. Millinocket Regional Hospital, Dec. 3, 2013, Maine Supreme Judicial Court

More Blog Entries:
Unnecessary Surgeries in Maine Can Lead to Major Complications, Aug. 20, 2013, Bangor Medical Malpractice Lawyer Blog

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