Argued: January 8, 2019
Circuit Court for Baltimore City Case No. 24-C-16-002363
Barbera, C.J. Greene, McDonald, Watts, Hotten, Getty, Wilner,
Alan M. (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned) JJ.
multiple tortfeasors contribute to a plaintiff's
injuries, the plaintiff may choose how to structure his or
her litigation against one or all tortfeasors in pursuit of
compensation for those injuries. The law, however, will
permit the plaintiff to obtain only one full satisfaction of
his or her injuries. Such satisfaction will preclude the
plaintiff from pursuing other tortfeasors for compensation
for the same injuries.
Michele Gallagher ("Ms. Gallagher" or
"Petitioner") was injured in an automobile
accident. She filed a lawsuit and ultimately obtained a
settlement from the negligent driver and owner of the other
vehicle, and a settlement from State Farm Mutual Automobile
Insurance Company ("State Farm"), her
uninsured/underinsured motorists carrier. The matter before
this Court concerns Ms. Gallagher's next bite at the
apple, as she now seeks to recover for her injuries from
another alleged tortfeasor, Respondent Mercy Medical Center
("Respondent" or "Mercy"). Through her
previous litigation, however, Petitioner obtained a
settlement from State Farm for the same injuries that she now
seeks from Mercy. Therefore, under the circumstances of this
case, Petitioner has received full compensation for her
injuries. Accordingly, we shall hold that Petitioner's
action against Respondent is barred by the one satisfaction
January 15, 2009, Ms. Gallagher was injured when her
automobile was struck from behind by an automobile driven by
Phuong Nguyen ("Mr. Nguyen"). Ms. Gallagher
underwent two reconstructive breast surgeries, which were
performed at Mercy Medical Center on April 28, 2011 and
October 18, 2012. Following the surgical procedures, Ms.
Gallagher developed an infection identified as
cellulitis. She was admitted to Mercy to treat the
infection with intravenous antibiotics on November 9, 2012.
Attempts to administer the antibiotics failed, so on November
12, 2012, she received the antibiotics through a Peripherally
Inserted Central Catheter ("PICC line"). While the
PICC line was being inserted into Ms. Gallagher's left
arm, it accessed or punctured her brachial artery. Ms.
Gallagher underwent vascular surgery to repair her brachial
artery. On November 16, 2012, Ms. Gallagher was discharged
from Mercy. Thereafter, she received out-patient treatment at
Mercy for pain and Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy in her left arm.
Automobile Accident Action
December 16, 2011, Ms. Gallagher filed a Complaint
("Automobile Accident Complaint") in the Circuit
Court for Baltimore City, naming Mr. Nguyen, Jenny Le Phan
("Ms. Phan"), and State Farm as defendants. In
Count One, Ms. Gallagher alleged negligence against Mr.
Nguyen and Ms. Phan, the owner of the vehicle Mr. Nguyen was
driving. Ms. Gallagher sought $2 million for her
injuries, which she alleged included emotional pain and
suffering, past and future medical expenses, and the
inability to engage in her usual employments, activities, and
Count Two of the Automobile Accident Complaint, Ms. Gallagher
alleged a breach of contract by State Farm, her
uninsured/underinsured motorists carrier. Ms. Gallagher
alleged that, under the terms of her policy, "State Farm
agreed to compensate M[s.] Gallagher for her bodily injuries
and losses sustained due to the negligence of an underinsured
motorist up to the prescribed limits." Ms. Gallagher
averred that the alleged tortfeasors were underinsured
motorists and, therefore, State Farm stood in breach
of contract when it refused Ms. Gallagher's demand for
insurance proceeds. Ms. Gallagher claimed that she was
"damaged as described in Count [One] of th[e]
Complaint[, ]" and she sought $1 million in damages from
April 17, 2012, Ms. Gallagher settled her negligence claim
against Mr. Nguyen and Ms. Phan. As part of the settlement
agreement, Ms. Gallagher accepted $25, 000.00, which
represented the full policy limit of Mr. Nguyen's
liability insurance coverage with Nationwide Mutual Fire
Insurance Company. In exchange, Ms. Gallagher signed a
Release of All Claims ("Release"). Therein, Ms.
Gallagher released her claims against Mr. Nguyen, Ms. Phan,
and Nationwide, but expressly reserved her claim against
State Farm. The Release made no mention of Mercy. On May 15,
2012, Ms. Gallagher filed a "Stipulation of Dismissal
with Prejudice," dismissing her claims against Mr.
Nguyen and Ms. Phan.
Gallagher pursued her breach of contract claim against State
Farm, and the parties proceeded to discovery. In her initial
responses to State Farm's interrogatories, sent on May
16, 2012, Petitioner claimed that she sought to recover from
State Farm for her first breast surgery, pain and suffering,
and related bills. Subsequently, in letters dated February 18
and May 22, 2014, Ms. Gallagher supplemented her discovery
responses. She included bills related to her second breast
surgery, cellulitis treatment, PICC line procedure, vascular
surgery, and other treatment following the PICC line
March 6, 2015, Ms. Gallagher sent State Farm a letter
supplementing her answers to State Farm's
interrogatories. Therein, Ms. Gallagher explained that she
endured two surgeries and developed cellulitis, then, in the
course of treating the cellulitis, insertion of a PICC line
accessed or punctured her brachial artery, necessitating
additional surgery and causing "severe and permanent
impairment to her left [arm]" - all of which was
"causally relate[d]  to the original accident of
January, 2009." Additionally, two of the physicians who
treated Ms. Gallagher at Mercy, Drs. David Maine, Jr., M.D.
and Bernard W. Chang, M.D., were deposed. Upon questioning by
Ms. Gallagher's counsel, the doctors affirmed that the
breast surgeries, cellulitis, and PICC line procedure and
injuries sustained therefrom were causally connected to the
2009 motor vehicle accident. Both doctors' statements
were slated for use by Ms. Gallagher at her trial. In a
letter dated April 28, 2015, Ms. Gallagher provided State
Farm with a list of exhibits that she intended to introduce
at trial. The list included her medical bills resulting from
the PICC line procedure.
29, 2015, State Farm filed a motion to strike discovery
materials that Ms. Gallagher produced belatedly. Rather than
asking the trial court to exclude a specific document from
evidence at trial, State Farm sought to end Ms.
Gallagher's practice of supplementing her discovery
responses with reports and bills that were several years old.
The trial court found that Ms. Gallagher had been producing
documents "years after the fact," and that her
conduct was "highly prejudicial to [State Farm] and to
the [c]ourt and [wa]s, therefore, inexcusable."
Accordingly, the trial court granted State Farm's motion
to strike. As a result, the documents that Ms. Gallagher
produced belatedly were excluded from evidence at trial.
According to Ms. Gallagher, some of her bills from the PICC
line procedure were excluded because of the trial court's
ruling on the motion to strike.
January 5, 2015, Ms. Gallagher's trial against State Farm
commenced. After opening statements, the parties settled for
$125, 000.00. The parties placed their settlement on the
trial record, the trial judge ordered the case settled and
dismissed with prejudice, and the clerk entered the
settlement on the docket. On January 22, 2016, the parties
filed a "Stipulation of Dismissal with Prejudice."
Medical Malpractice Action
November 9, 2015, Ms. Gallagher filed a claim against Mercy
in the Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office
("HCADRO"). Ms. Gallagher ultimately waived
arbitration in her HCADRO action, and she filed a Complaint
("Medical Malpractice Complaint") against Mercy in
the Circuit Court for Baltimore City on April 15, 2016. Ms.
Gallagher asserted that Mercy was vicariously responsible for
the negligent medical care that she received during the PICC
line procedure. She sought damages for personal injuries,
present and ...