Case Update: Timely Filed Wrongful Death Cause of Action Is Not Barred by Deceased's Failure to File a Medical Malpractice Claim


The Plaintiffs in this case were the beneficiaries of Mrs. Varner's estate, who filed a lawsuit against her former physician and his practice (Dr. Alizadeh, alleging that her wrongful death resulted from Dr. Alizadeh's failure to diagnose a tumor. Dr. Alizadeh filed a motion to dismiss, asserting Plaintiffs' claims were barred by the statute of limitations because the deceased would have been time-barred from filing a lawsuit for medical negligence/malpractice claims at the time of her death. The trial court granted Dr. Alizadeh's motion and dismissed the claim.

The Maryland Court of Appeals granted a writ of certiorari to determine whether Maryland's wrongful death statute (MD Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, Section 3-901) was limited to the statute of limitations which applied to the deceased, or whether it created a new cause of action that began to accrue at the time of death, thereby giving rise to a separate statute of limitations.

In overruling the trial court's decision, the Court of Appeals determined that the plaintiffs had filed the wrongful death action within the only time limit imposed on such claims, i.e. within the 3-year statute of limitations provided by Maryland's wrongful death statute. The court further held the decedent's failure to file a timely claim for medical malpractice prior to her death did not bar the subsequent wrongful death action filed by her beneficiaries.

Mummert, et al. v. Alizadeh, et al., No. 5 September Term 2013