Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Kratz v. Medsour Cecommunity Services, Inc.

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

June 29, 2016

KURT KRATZ, BY AND THROUGH HIS GUARDIAN, CAROLE KRATZ-SPERA
v.
MEDSOUR CECOMMUNITY SERVICES, INC.

          Krauser, C.J., Berger, Sharer, J. Frederick (Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ.

          OPINION

          Sharer, J.

         Presented in this appeal is the question of whether the appointment of a guardian of the person of a mentally incompetent person removes the disability of that person for purposes of application of the statute of limitations. The Circuit Court for Prince George's County (Hon. Albert Northrop, J.) ruled that the guardian of the person is not excused from the operation of the statute of limitations.

         The Circuit Court for Prince George's County found that appellant, Kurt Kratz, an adult, lacks the capacity to make responsible decisions concerning his person due to a mental disability or disease, [1] and appointed his mother, Carole Kratz-Spera, and his sister, Heather Lamont, guardians of his person, on July 18, 2008. On June 18, 2013, and June 6, 2014, Kratz, by his guardian, Kratz-Spera, filed complaints in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County against appellee, MedSource Community Services ("MedSource").

         Kurt Kratz was a resident of a group home operated by MedSource in Laurel, Prince George's County when two incidents occurred, both resulting in injury to him, from which the complaints in this case arose. On March 22, 2006, he gained improper access to a bottle of chloral hydrate and ingested a quantity of the contents. On November 24, 2009, he was injured when his hand was submerged into a pot of boiling water. Both complaints alleged medical negligence resulting in injury.

         MedSource moved to dismiss the initial complaint for failure to arbitrate pursuant to the Maryland Health Care Malpractice Claims Act. The motion was denied and a stay was ordered to allow for proceedings in the Health Care Alternate Dispute Resolution Office. After there was no resolution through arbitration, Kratz-Spera filed the second complaint, again alleging medical negligence as a result of both the 2006 and 2009 incidents. Kratz-Spera's motion to lift the stay in the first case and consolidate the complaints was granted by the circuit court.

         On February 26, 2015, the circuit court granted MedSource's motion to dismiss, as to all counts in both complaints. Kratz-Spera thereafter noted this timely appeal, raising the following issue:

Whether the Circuit Court erred in granting the motion to dismiss and finding that the appointment of a guardian of the person "removes the disability" of a mentally incompetent individual for purposes of the Maryland tolling statute.

         We shall affirm the judgment of the circuit court. The tolling exception addresses a disability that is not a procedural one; rather it is a disability that prevents one from understanding the existence of a cause of action. The statute of limitations begins to run after the knowledge has been gained, which occurs when a guardian learns of the facts giving rise to the cause of action.

         BACKGROUND

         Kurt Kratz is an adult who suffers from severe autism and intellectual disability. On July 18, 2008, the circuit court appointed his mother, Carole Kratz-Spera, and his sister, Heather Lamont, as guardians of his person after finding that he "lacks sufficient understanding or capacity to make or communicate responsible decisions concerning his person, including provisions for health care, food, clothing, or shelter." The order granted the guardians "all the rights, duties and powers as set forth in Estates and Trusts Article, Section 13-708 ... with the general discretion of the guardian concerning living arrangement within this State, non life threatening medical care and procedures, clothing and food." Kratz at all relevant times lived in a group home operated by MedSource.

         On March 22, 2006, Kurt Kratz gained access to a bottle containing chloral hydrate, a sedative, and ingested a large quantity of the substance. Coincidentally, Kratz-Spera arrived at the MedSource group home to visit her son at that time, and found him asleep and "foaming at the mouth and breathing erratically." Kratz-Spera instructed MedSource employees to call an ambulance, which transported Kratz to a hospital, where he remained in a coma for approximately 60 days.

         On November 24, 2009, Kratz suffered second degree burns when his hand was submerged into a pot of boiling water at the MedSource group home. A Medsource employee reported to police during an investigation, in conjunction with Adult Protective Services, that he observed another MedSource employee hold Kratz's hand momentarily in the hot water. Kratz-Spera was notified of this incident the following morning.

         On June 18, 2013, Kratz, by his guardian Kratz-Spera, filed a complaint in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County against MedSource, alleging liability on three different theories for negligence related to the second incident.[2] MedSource moved to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that the Maryland Health Care Malpractice Claims Act required arbitration prior to filing an action in court. The circuit court denied the motion to dismiss, but ordered a stay to allow Kratz to pursue a remedy through the Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office.

         On June 6, 2014, Kratz, by his guardian Kratz-Spera, and Kratz-Spera, individually, filed a complaint asserting liability on three different theories for both incidents, as well as claims for medical and related expenses and loss of income and wage earning capacity incurred by Kratz-Spera. Kratz's counsel conceded that the new complaint was a redundancy to ensure the first case, previously stayed, was re-opened.

         MedSource moved to dismiss the complaint on limitations grounds, arguing that Kratz's disability had been "removed" for limitations purposes upon the appointment of the guardians. Hence, MedSource asserts, limitations began to run at the time the guardian gained notice of each incident.

         On February 26, 2015, the circuit court lifted the stay in the first case, consolidated the two cases, and dismissed ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.