Md. lawsuit moved to Talbot County; Plaintiffs preferred Baltimore, though they would have driven past Talbot courthouse on way

By John Sammon | Dec 22, 2017

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Legal Newsline) – The Court of Appeals of Maryland has upheld a ruling by the Circuit Court of Baltimore City that a hearing over the medical treatment given to a 15-year-old boy be transferred from Baltimore City to Talbot County.

“Although the plaintiff’s choice of venue receives deference as the presumed convenient forum for the plaintiff, that deference is minimized when the plaintiff does not reside in that forum,” says the appeals court's decision, which was filed Nov. 28. 

“The plaintiffs did not reside in Baltimore City, their chosen venue, but resided in Talbot County, the venue where the circuit court transferred the case. Based on the facts, the convenience of the parties and witnesses and the interests of justice weighed strongly in favor of transfer.”

According to the opinion, in August 2013, Brandon Kerrigan visited his Talbot County physician Dr. Mark Langfitt after experiencing shortness of breath and dry coughing. The boy was sent to Delmarva Radiology where he was diagnosed with atypical pneumonia. Langfitt prescribed antibiotics.

The opinion states the symptoms persisted and Brandon was admitted to Shore Medical where an exam revealed potential heart failure. Transported by helicopter to the University of Maryland in Baltimore City, the boy was again examined and the diagnosis changed from heart failure to septic shock. However, a second blood test reconfirmed heart failure. Four months after his admission, Kerrigan received a heart transplant.

In 2015, the boy’s parents, Kimberly and Michael Kerrigan, filed suit against the University of Maryland Medical System Corp. and seven defendants including Shore Medical, Delmarva Radiology and four individual doctors, alleging malpractice.

The family lived in Bozman, a town in Talbot County.

In May 2015, the seven petitioners (defendants) filed a motion to transfer the venue from Baltimore City to Talbot County. The circuit court granted the motion, and the plaintiffs appealed.

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals reversed the grant of motion to transfer, holding that the request to move the case from Baltimore to Talbot County had failed to demonstrate that the interests of justice supported the transfer.

The Maryland Court of Appeals differed, favoring the transfer. The high court noted that for convenience, seven of 10 named parties in the case plaintiffs and defendants were located in Talbot County. 

The judge also considered arguments by defense counsel that the plaintiffs would pass the Circuit Court of Talbot County on their way to the Circuit Court of Baltimore City if the hearing was held there.

The court also noted that potential witnesses to the case including care-givers would be inconvenienced if they had to come to testify in Baltimore City.    

The Kerrigans wanted the venue set in Baltimore City in part because potential witnesses including two of the allegedly negligent doctors worked in Baltimore and the boy’s heart transplant team were also located there.

The Maryland Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion when it concluded the case should be transferred to Talbot County.      

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