Court for Baltimore City Case No. 24-C-14-005520.
Deborah S., Kehoe, Rodowsky, Lawrence A. (Senior Judge,
Specially Assigned), JJ.
Deborah S., J.
Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Patricia Lamalfa, the
appellant, sued Janis Hearn, the appellee, for automobile
negligence. The case was tried to a jury over two days.
During the testimony of Ms. Hearn's medical expert, the
court admitted into evidence, over objection, four of Ms.
Lamalfa's post-accident medical treatment records that
the expert relied upon in forming his opinions. At the close
of all the evidence, the court granted a motion for judgment
in favor Ms. Lamalfa on "negligence" and ruled that
the case would go to the jury "for its determination as
to the amount of damages, if any that should be
awarded." The jury deliberated and returned a verdict in
favor of Ms. Lamalfa for $10, 576.05, comprising the full
amount of her medical bills and $650 for pain and suffering.
appeal, Ms. Lamalfa presents two questions, which we have
combined and rephrased as:
Did the circuit court err by admitting Ms. Lamalfa's
medical records into evidence?
For the following reasons, we shall affirm the judgment of
the circuit court.
October 14, 2011, Ms. Lamalfa, who lives in Brooklyn, New
York, was in Maryland to attend a family wedding. On the way
to the wedding, she was sitting in the rear passenger seat of
a small SUV, which was being driven by her son Steven Lamalfa
("Steven"). Steven drove the SUV southbound on
Interstate 95, near Pulaski Highway, and onto an exit ramp,
where it came to a complete stop because of heavy traffic.
The SUV was rear-ended by a vehicle being driven by Ms.
and ambulances responded to the scene. Ms. Lamalfa did not
seek medical treatment. She and the other occupants of the
SUV continued on to the wedding. They returned to their hotel
in Baltimore that night. The next morning, Ms. Lamalfa went
to the emergency room at Mercy Medical Center
("Mercy") in Baltimore with complaints of low back
pain and some tenderness in her left forearm. She was treated
and released. She returned to New York that night.
after the accident, on October 21, 2011, Ms. Lamalfa sought
treatment from Yury Koyen, M.D., a specialist in physical
medicine and rehabilitation who practices at Relief Medical,
P.C., in Brooklyn. She complained of upper and lower back
pain, pain in both arms, left hip pain, periodic numbness in
her right hand, right shoulder pain, weakness in her left
arm, tailbone pain, and emotional distress related to the
accident. Dr. Koyen recommended that Ms. Lamalfa undergo
physical therapy and chiropractic treatment, as well as
October 2011, Ms. Lamalfa began experiencing severe abdominal
pain. An October 31, 2011 CT scan of her abdomen was normal,
however. In February 2012, Sampath Kumar, M.D., a general
surgeon, diagnosed Ms. Lamalfa with an epigastric hernia. In
March 2012, he operated on her to repair it. Ms. Lamalfa
previously had had surgery to repair an epigastric hernia in
on November 7, 2011, Ms. Lamalfa underwent an MRI of her
right shoulder that revealed a rotator cuff injury. More than
three years later, in December 2014, Ms. Lamalfa went to see
Jaspreet Sekhon, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon. Dr. Sekhon sent
Ms. Lamalfa for another MRI, which revealed a rotator cuff
tear. In 2015, Dr. Sekhon operated on Ms. Lamalfa's right
Lamalfa filed suit against Ms. Hearn on September 23,
2014. The case was tried to a jury from
February 16 to 18, 2016. In the plaintiffs' case, Ms.
Lamalfa and Steven testified and the de bene esse
depositions of Drs. Koyen, Kumar, and Sekhon were played for
Lamalfa, then age 54, testified about the accident and about
her medical treatment following the accident. She had worked
as a hairdresser from the age of 18 until about a year before
the accident. Shortly after the accident, her abdomen began
to feel "weak" and she noticed a
"protrusion" between her stomach and her ribcage.
She went to see Dr. Kumar and he diagnosed her with an
Lamalfa also began experiencing right shoulder pain in the
weeks following the accident that got "progressively
worse." She could not hold her grandchildren, lift pots
and pans, or reach up to high shelves. She had not
experienced right shoulder pain prior to the accident. She
did not seek immediate medical treatment for her shoulder
pain, however, because she had moved in with her parents and
her mother was already providing care for her father
following a knee replacement surgery. In December 2014, she
went to see Dr. Sekhon and he recommended surgery. Ms.
Lamalfa described the recovery following her surgery as
"[l]ong and arduous." For more than three months,
she had to wear a sling and a bolster on her arm at all times
except when she bathed. This made "[s]leeping . . .
horrendous." She was still having difficulty sleeping
and her shoulder movement remained "impaired."
Koyen testified by video deposition that to a reasonable
degree of medical certainty Ms. Lamalfa's hernia and
rotator cuff tear were caused by the October 14, 2011
accident. He opined that the rotator cuff tear to Ms.
Lamalfa's right shoulder, as seen on the November 7, 2011
MRI, was consistent with an acute traumatic injury. He
acknowledged that the record of Ms. Lamalfa's visit to
the Mercy emergency room on October 15, 2011 ("Mercy
record"), the day after the accident, did not include
any notation of complaints of right shoulder pain or
abdominal pain. Dr. Koyen testified that on November 22,
2011, he prepared a report of his treatment of Ms. Lamalfa on
October 21, 2011, and up until the date of the report
("Koyen record"). In the report, he did not note
that Ms. Lamalfa had complained of any abdominal pain during
her initial appointment. His report reflected that she later
complained of "severe pains in the abdominal and pelvis
area" and, as a result, a CT scan of her abdomen was
performed on October 31, 2011.
Kumar testified by video deposition that Ms. Lamalfa came to
see him in February 2012 with complaints of abdominal pain.
He palpated her abdomen and diagnosed her with a recurrence
of an epigastric hernia. He opined that, given the location
of the hernia, it was not surprising that the October 31,
2011 CT scan did not show it. He further opined to a
reasonable degree of medical certainty that Ms. Lamalfa's
epigastric hernia was caused by the pressure of the seat belt
against her abdominal wall during the October ...