The wrote an opinion of interest to attorneys who receive referrals from other Maryland lawyers in malpractice cases.
This case involves a Maryland lawyer who referred a cancer misdiagnosis case involving an allegedly misread mammogram to a lawyer that handles medical malpractice cases, agreeing to a fee split. Before referring the case out, the original lawyer filed the malpractice lawsuit.
The Defendant sought summary judgment claiming the statute of limitations had tolled because the alleged failure to diagnose cancer occurred more than three years after limitations had passed. Plaintiff prevailed on summary judgment. The opinion does not say, but I assume it was a discovery rule issue – the patient did not know of the malpractice until after it had occurred.
Then things got interesting. The malpractice case settled the claim for $225,000, far less than the referring lawyer had hoped. Allegedly, the medical malpractice lawyer sold the clients on the settlement by “deliberately misle[ading] the [Plaintiffs] into settling by telling them limitations remained a ‘serious concern’”; “telling them that they had been victims of malpractice by [the referring lawyer]”; and “suggesting to them that they sue [the referring lawyer] for malpractice.”
The referring lawyer alleged a ton of things: negligence, fraudulent concealment,
breach of fiduciary duty, intentional interference with contract, breach of contract, and the tort of blaming another lawyer for a bad malpractice settlement. (Okay, I made up the last one.) Essentially, the referring lawyer was upset with what the malpractice lawyer told the clients and by the fact that the case settled for $225,000 when the settlement judge (I’m assuming at the pretrial) recommended the case settle for $350,000.
In a 34-page opinion, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals affirmed the judgment on the basis that even if the referring lawyer’s allegation were true – the medical malpractice lawyer misinformed the clients and settled the case for less than it was worth – these allegations do not give rise to a tort or contract action by the referring lawyer.
You can read the entire opinion here. It is amazing to me how the court sticks to the facts with little editorializing. I would not be able to do it.