UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND MEDICAL SYSTEM CORPORATION et al.
BRANDON KERRIGAN, a minor et al.
Argued: September 6, 2017
Court for Baltimore City Case No. 24-C-15-002333
Barbera, C.J. Greene, Adkins, McDonald, Watts, Hotten, Getty,
fundamental inquiry before us in this case is the proper
application of the standard of appellate review to a trial
court's order to transfer a case pursuant to Maryland
Rule 2-327(c). Although the underlying facts of this case
involve alleged medical malpractice, it is before us because
of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City's grant of the
Defendants' motion to transfer the case to Talbot County.
The Court of Special Appeals reversed the hearing judge's
grant of the motion to transfer, holding that the moving
party failed to meet its burden of demonstrating that the
convenience of the parties and the interests of justice
supported transfer of the case from Baltimore City to Talbot
County. Because we determine that the Circuit Court did not
abuse its discretion when it concluded that the case should
be transferred to Talbot County, we shall reverse the
judgment of the Court of Special Appeals.
result of the procedural posture of this case, the facts are
queued up by the parties' pleadings. With the exception
of limited factual findings by the Circuit Court related to
the residency of the parties, the parties have not litigated
the remaining allegations. We provide a summary of the
allegations here for context only. Brandon Kerrigan and his
parents, Kimberly and Michael Kerrigan,
("Respondents"), live in Bozman, a community
located in Talbot County. Brandon, through his parents and
with them in their individual capacities, filed a medical
malpractice action in May 2015 against seven defendants:
three medical systems, the University of Maryland Medical
System Corporation, the University of Maryland Shore Regional
Health, Inc. ("Shore Medical"), and Delmarva
Radiology, PA, and four doctors in their individual
capacities, Drs. David White, Dayanand Bagdure, Nicole
Mallory, and Steven Sauter ("Petitioners"), in the
Circuit Court for Baltimore City.
August of 2013, Brandon, age fifteen, visited his Talbot
County physician, Dr. Mark Langfitt, after experiencing
shortness of breath and a prolonged period of dry coughing.
Dr. Langfitt referred Brandon to Delmarva Radiology to
receive a chest X-ray for further examination. Dr. Steven
Sauter reviewed the X-ray results at Delmarva Radiology and
diagnosed Brandon with atypical pneumonia. Thereafter, Dr.
Langfitt prescribed Brandon five days of antibiotics.
symptoms persisted. He was admitted to the emergency room at
Shore Medical, where an examination revealed indicators of
potential heart failure. Dr. David White directed that
Brandon receive intravenous fluids while Brandon waited to
receive further testing to confirm the condition of his
heart. Dr. White consulted with Dr. Dayanard Bagdure, of the
University of Maryland Medical System Corporation, who agreed
to treat Brandon after an emergency transfer, by helicopter,
to the University of Maryland in Baltimore City. Brandon
received fluids until he completed them during the helicopter
ride, where he coded on his way from Talbot County to
admission to the University of Maryland, Brandon's
treating physicians changed his diagnosis from heart failure
to septic shock. After arrival, Brandon received a second
blood test, the results of which confirmed heart failure. At
the University of Maryland, Brandon had received over four
liters of IV fluids during a fourteen hour period before he
received any diuretics. Four months after his admission,
Brandon received a heart transplant.
the Kerrigans filed suit in May 2015, the seven Petitioners
jointly filed a motion to transfer venue from Baltimore City
to Talbot County, pursuant to Rule 2-327(c), and requested a
hearing. After a lengthy hearing, the Circuit Court granted
the motion to transfer and delivered an eight-minute oral
decision from the bench. The hearing judge clarified that he
had considered the motion on forum non conveniens
And, obviously, this is not a claim that the forum is
improper. It's not a motion to dismiss for an improper
It's a motion under the forum non conveniens
analysis as to whether the case as it is and whether the
factors balance heavily in favor of transfer to the
suggested jurisdiction of Talbot County.
I have weighed those factors, and I do find that those
factors do weigh strongly in favor of transfer. There
are a number of things that I considered.
hearing judge explained that his first consideration in the
balancing test was convenience to the parties and witnesses:
First, with respect to the balance of convenience of the
parties and the witnesses, as counsel for the defendant has
pointed out, seven of the ten named parties in the case,
plaintiff and defendants, are in Talbot County.
I was struck by the fact and it was pointed out by defense
counsel that plaintiffs actually must pass the Circuit Court
for Talbot County on the way to the Circuit Court for
I was unpersuaded by the exhibit and statistics presented by
plaintiffs' counsel as to the witnesses. I don't find
the fact that the transplant team is in Baltimore City is of
The primary and key witnesses that would be testifying in
this case - obviously, everyone has noted that it's hard
to say who will actually testify. But you're not going to
have 500 and some care providers who may have touched the
treatment at some point testify at trial. But it's clear
that the significant balance is in favor of those who would
be inconvenienced significantly coming from Talbot County to
the hearing judge explained that consideration of public
interest, including the burden on the public, weighed in
favor of transfer to Talbot County:
As to the statistical analysis with respect to the other
prong, the public interest, I was not persuaded by
the statistics as argued by plaintiffs' counsel. The
numbers don't bear out in what I reviewed in the annual
statistical abstract as to the courts' dockets.
Of course, I certainly am not saying that we're here in
Baltimore City . . . looking to avoid having additional
cases. We certainly can handle everything that comes at us,
and we do. But the numbers do not support plaintiffs'
position. The numbers, in fact, would weigh in favor -
strongly in favor of the transfer.
With respect to the burden on the public, again,
both with respect to the jury duty issue, clearly there's
a heavier burden here in the city than in Talbot County,
based on just the numbers submitted and the number of trials
that are recorded as having taken place. . . .
[T]he other component of the public interest that I
was considering was the question with respect to the
parties' interest or the public's interest in the
health care that's provided in the jurisdiction. I was
persuaded by the defense argument noting that the sole
institution in Talbot County providing medical care is a
party defendant in the case. So compare that to Baltimore
City where there are several large medical institutions. The
Court does find that there is a significantly stronger
interest in Talbot County in the handling of this matter, the
outcome of this matter than in Baltimore City.
hearing judge noted that he considered other factors as well.
Ultimately, upon weighing the various considerations
and allocating appropriate deference to the
plaintiffs for their choice of venue, the hearing judge found
that transfer to Talbot County was appropriate. He said:
Other factors that were mentioned in terms of
location of documents, evidence, service of process, I
don't find that those factors weigh in favor of either
the plaintiff or - plaintiffs or defendants.
But at bottom, the Court sees many motions to transfer,
noting that plaintiff is afforded deference with
respect to choice of venue.
And in many cases, it comes down to, well, it would certainly
be more convenient for it to be in, for example, Cecil County
than in Baltimore City, but not strong - in terms of
the factors, the factors would not weigh strongly in many
But in this case, I see this as, far and away, one of the
strongest in terms of weighing in favor of transfer to Talbot
County. That the inconvenience of the parties and the
witnesses would be tremendous if the matter were handled in
Baltimore City. And that it serves the interest of justice to
transfer the matter to Talbot County. So the motion to
transfer is granted. . . .
It doesn't change my decision [that there will be, at a
minimum, six physicians that will be called to trial from the
University of Maryland and that there are two doctors down
there and there are two doctors up here]. I find that the
balance weighs strongly in favor . . . even given those
arguments, in favor of transfer.
Kerrigans noted an appeal to the Court of Special Appeals
from the Circuit Court's order to transfer the case to
Talbot County. The Court of Special Appeals reversed the
Circuit Court in an unreported opinion, holding that, like in
Scott v. Hawit, 211 Md.App. 620, 66 A.3d 60,
cert. denied, 434 Md. 314, 75 A.3d 919 (2013), the
balance of the factors did not weigh strongly in favor of
transfer but rather weighed in "near equipoise."
University of Maryland Medical System Corporation, et
al., filed a petition for certiorari, which we granted.
Univ. of Md. Med. Sys. Corp. v. Kerrigan, 452 Md. 5,
155 A.3d 891 (2017). The certiorari petition contained three
questions. We find the Court of Special Appeals'
action in reframing the questions and condensing them into a
single question for clarity more apropos. Accordingly, we
adopt the following question to be resolved:
Did the Circuit Court abuse its discretion by granting the
motion to transfer venue?
faced with the task of reviewing transfers granted pursuant
to Rule 2-327(c), this Court has resolutely applied an abuse
of discretion standard. Odenton Dev. Co. v. Lamy,
320 Md. 33, 40, 575 A.2d 1235, 1238 (1990). Although
appellate courts do not rubberstamp the rulings of trial
court judges, appellate courts "should . . . be
reticent" to substitute their own judgment for that of
the trial court unless they can identify "clear
abuse" of the wide latitude given to trial courts when
ruling on Rule 2-327(c) motions. Urquhart v.
Simmons, 339 Md. 1, 17-19, 660 A.2d 412, 420-21 (citing
Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 257, 102
S.Ct. 252, 266, 70 L.Ed.2d 419, 436 (1981)); see Lapides
v. Lapides, 50 Md.App. 248, 252, 437 A.2d 251, 254
(1981) ("The exercise of a judge's discretion is
presumed to be correct, he [or she] is presumed to know the
law, and is presumed to have performed his [or her] duties
properly.") (internal citations omitted); Alexis v.
State, 437 Md. 457, 478, 87 A.3d 1243, 1254 (2014)
(citing North v. North, 102 Md.App. 1, 13-14, 648
A.2d 1025, 1031-32 (1994)); Aventis Pasteur, Inc. v.
Skevofilax, 396 Md. 405, 436, 914 A.2d 113, 132 (2007)
("So long as the Circuit Court applies the proper legal
standards and reaches a reasonable conclusion based on the
facts before it, an appellate court should not reverse a