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Judge Holds Maryland Damages Cap Not Applicable to Malpractice Cases
Date:4/21/2009

ROCKVILLE, Md., April 21 /PRNewswire/ -- In a decision of broad impact to medical malpractice lawsuits across Maryland, a circuit judge in Rockville has refused to apply the state's "cap" on non-economic damages in a malpractice case.

Judge John Debelius ruled that when the Maryland General Assembly revised the damage cap in 2005 to lower the amount that malpractice victims could recover from negligent doctors and hospitals, the legislature exempted cases in which the parties had not first gone through the state's pre-suit arbitration system.

The decision was handed down late on April 20, 2009 in the case of Semsker v. Lockshin. The case concerned the death of 47-year-old Richard Semsker, a Bethesda employment attorney, from malignant melanoma, a curable skin cancer. A jury last November found a prominent dermatology practice, Norman A. Lockshin, M.D., P.A., in Silver Spring, Md., was liable for Mr. Semsker's death because one of the practice's dermatologists, Michael Albert, M.D., failed to remove a suspicious mole from Mr. Semsker's back, which later turned into melanoma. The jury awarded damages to Mr. Semsker's widow and two daughters in the amount of $5.8 million. The verdict included $3 million for the widow and children's grief and loss of companionship, and Mr. Semsker's own suffering as he battled the cancer over the last year of his life.

The judge rejected a post-trial motion by the defendant to reduce the $3 million "non-economic" damages to $812,500, the maximum that would have applied under the damages cap passed in a special session of the legislature in 2005. Maryland has had a limit on "non-economic" damages in all personal injury lawsuits since 1986. The new statute passed in 2005 applied only to malpractice cases, and cut the "cap" in half for victims of malpractice.

Judge Debelius noted in his decision that the original version of the 2005 legislation would have applie
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SOURCE Patrick Malone & Associates, P.C.
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