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Grabill v. Corizon, Inc.

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

August 1, 2013

STANLEY M. GRABILL, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
CORIZON, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

JAMES K. BREDAR, District Judge.

Stanley M. Grabill ("Plaintiff") brought this suit against Corizon, Inc. ("Defendant") alleging negligence. Now pending before the Court are Defendant's motion to dismiss (ECF No. 11) and Plaintiff's motion for leave to file a supplemental certificate of merit and report (ECF No. 13). The issues have been briefed and no hearing is required. Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion to dismiss will be GRANTED and Plaintiff's motion for leave to file a supplemental certificate of merit and report will be DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND[1]

Plaintiff is "a current resident at the Maryland Correctional Institute at Hagerstown in Washington County, Maryland." (Compl. ¶ 1; ECF No. 1.) Defendant is a Missouri corporation that was, at all relevant times, "under contract with the State of Maryland to provide health care services to inmates housed within the Maryland State Department of Corrections." ( Id. ¶ 2.)

Plaintiff alleges that in 2004 and early 2005 he "began to experience abdominal symptoms, including a change in bowel habits and bleeding from the rectum." ( Id. ¶ 7.) Plaintiff raised these symptoms with "physicians and health care providers" employed by Defendant. ( Id. ¶ 8.) These doctors "repeatedly reassured [Plaintiff] that nothing serious was wrong, that he just had prostate problems, ' and that he needed bed rest.'" ( Id. ¶ 9.) The doctors "specifically failed and refused to send [Plaintiff] to the hospital to have his condition investigated and diagnosed." ( Id. )

In February 2007, Plaintiff "began passing large amounts of blood in his stool." ( Id. ¶ 10.) On February 20, 2007, he was taken to the hospital and diagnosed with "a cancerous tumor of his colon." ( Id. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff underwent surgery, "which required a resection of the bowel, and the creation of a colostomy, " which he still has. ( Id. ¶ 12.) Plaintiff alleges that the failure by Defendant's employees to diagnose his cancer in 2004 or 2005 was due to their negligence, which allowed the tumor to develop and caused Plaintiff to require surgery and the colostomy. ( Id. ¶¶ 14-16.)

As required by Maryland law, Plaintiff initially filed a statement of claim with the Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office ("HCADRO") on February 18, 2010. (Pl. Br. in Support of Motion to Extend Time ¶ 1, ECF No. 13-1.) Plaintiff sought and received from HCADRO three extensions of time to file his certificate of merit and report. ( Id. ¶¶ 2, 3.) On December 20, 2010, Plaintiff filed with HCADRO a certificate of merit and an expert report by Dr. Lambert King. ( Id. ¶ 4.) On November 7, 2012, Plaintiff filed with HCADRO a notice of election to waive arbitration. ( Id. ¶ 6.) On January 4, 2013, Plaintiff filed his complaint in this Court.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A motion to dismiss under FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6) is a test of the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). To pass this test, a complaint need only present enough factual content to render its claims "plausible on [their] face" and enable the court to "draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The plaintiff may not, however, rely on naked assertions, speculation, or legal conclusions. Bell Atl. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556-57 (2007). In assessing the merits of a motion to dismiss, the court must take all well-pled factual allegations in the complaint as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff. Ibarra v. United States, 120 F.3d 472, 474 (4th Cir. 1997). If after viewing the complaint in this light the court cannot infer more than "the mere possibility of misconduct, " then the motion should be granted and the complaint dismissed. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss

Defendant moves to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that Plaintiff's certificate of merit and report are insufficient as a matter of Maryland law. Among other arguments, Defendant contends that the certificate fails to identify the applicable standard of care and how it was breached. The Court agrees and, therefore, will dismiss the complaint.

In order to maintain an action for medical malpractice under Maryland law, plaintiffs are required initially to file their clams with HCADRO. See MD. CODE CTS. & JUD. PROC. § 3-2A-04(a)(1)(i).[2] As a condition precedent to pursuing their claim, plaintiffs are also required to "file a certificate of a qualified expert... attesting to the departure from standards of care, and that the departure from standards of care is the proximate cause of the alleged injury." Id. § 3-2A-04(b)(1)(i); see also Carroll v. Konits, 929 A.2d 19, 22 (Md. 2007) (holding that filing the certificate is a condition precedent). The certificate of merit must be filed "with a report of the attesting expert attached." Id. § 3-2A-04(b)(3)(i). The report - the filing of which, as a necessary part of the certificate, is also a condition precedent - must "explain how or why the physician failed or did not fail to meet the standard of care and include some details supporting the certificate." Walzer v. Osborne, 911 A.2d 427, 436-39 (Md. 2006) (holding that the certificate is incomplete if the expert's report is not attached); see also Kearney v. Berger, 7 A.3d 593, 605 (Md. 2010) (holding that the certificate must "indicate what the standard of care was or how the health care providers departed from it") (citing Carroll, 929 A.2d at 37-38).

Plaintiff's expert report is insufficient, because it does not set forth the relevant standard of care or explain how Defendant's employees departed from ...


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