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Maryland High Court Bars Plaintiff From Subsequent Medical Malpractice Claim

The Maryland Court of Appeals recently returned a unanimous 7-0 ruling that barred a plaintiff from “double dipping.” The plaintiff had incurred injuries from a car accident and previously had received compensation from insurance companies. After the crash, she was treated at a medical facility, where she alleged to have been a victim of medical malpractice. This subsequent claim was denied according to the state’s “one satisfaction rule.” The plaintiff had been compensated by the other motorist’s insurance provider following the accident, as well as from her underinsured motorist policy.

Original Event

Michele Gallagher was struck and injured in a rear collision by a vehicle operated by Phuong Nguyen, who was found to be at fault. She later required two surgical procedures to reconstruct her breasts at Mercy Medical Center. She asserted that she acquired the infection at the facility that was determined to be cellulitis. She was readmitted to the facility and given antibiotics intravenously. This method was unsuccessful, so additional antibiotics were administered using a Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter (“PICC line”). During this process, she endured a puncture of an artery that required surgery.

Multiple Liable Parties

The “one satisfaction rule” states that a plaintiff is only able to be compensated once for damages. Plaintiffs are entitled to one “full satisfaction” for their injuries. They are then prohibited from seeking compensation from other potentially liable parties that were involved. The rule was established to prevent plaintiffs from receiving “unjust enrichment.” The rule may apply even if the injury was caused by parties that were “not acting in concert.”

Underwood-Gary v. Matthews (2001)

Underwood-Gary was the plaintiff in this case after another driver struck and injured her. The case proceeded to trial and she was awarded roughly $9,000, an amount she felt was insufficient. Underwood-Gary appealed the award and during this process, a $20,000 settlement agreement was reached. Later, she pursued a separate medical malpractice case against the medical providers that had treated her for the injuries. Ultimately, her claim was unsuccessful because the court found the “one satisfaction rule” applied according to the Maryland statute.

Cellulitis Infection

The American Academy of Dermatology defines cellulitis as:

  • A serious and fairly common condition that develops under layers of skin anywhere within the body
  • Those who acquire cellulitis are to promptly seek medical treatment
  • If not properly treated, the infection may progress to the lymph nodes and then enter the blood and create further damage
  • Treatment typically involves antibiotics taken orally combined with topical wound care

Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter (“PICC Line”)

In this case, the plaintiff was administered antibiotics through a PICC line. This is used to extract blood and to provide medications and blood transfusions. It is composed of a small tube that is flexible that is inserted through a vein in the region of the upper arms. The line is then “threaded” into the side of the heart in the superior vena cava. A needle is used that is positioned within an exterior port. Often these lines are left in place for periods as long as several months at a time.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 


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