ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Legal Newsline) - Maryland's highest court has affirmed a tort reform measure that puts a cap on medical malpractice awards by reversing a Montgomery County Circuit Court decision.

The state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that a $5.8 million award should be lowered to $3.5 million because of a law enacted in 2004. The trial court had ruled it did not apply to the case because the parties did not attempt arbitration first.

Judge Glenn Harrell wrote the opinion and said the caps on damages should be applied to all medical malpractice claims.

"Our holdings rest squarely on the principles of sound statutory interpretation and track the General Assembly's intent for the consideration of health care malpractice claims," he wrote.

Norman Lockshin's dermatology practice was sued by Richard Semsker, a Rockville lawyer who died from skin cancer in 2007 while the case was pending.

A jury awarded $3 million in non-economic damages to Semsker's estate and family.

The defendants had the award reduced to $812,500 and medical damages compensation reduced by $85,000. Semsker's estate and family asked to have the original award reinstated, and the circuit court complied in April.

The $812,500 figure represents the limit on non-economic damages in malpractice suits.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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