Unlike other personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits, Massachusetts medical malpractice claims must be reviewed by a special tribunal before they may proceed in a regular courtroom. If the tribunal does not believe the claim has merit, the plaintiff has the option of filing a bond and continuing with his or her case. A recent appellate court decision dealt with this procedure, answering the question of whether the bond has to be in cash or whether a surety bond will suffice.
Facts of the Case
In the recently reviewed appellate case, the plaintiff was a man who sought to recover compensation for an alleged act of medical negligence by the defendant health care provider. He commenced his action pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws chapter 231, § 60B, and a medical malpractice tribunal was convened to review the evidence against the defendant. After consideration, the tribunal concluded that the plaintiff had not presented sufficient evidence to raise a legitimate question of liability appropriate for judicial inquiry, as required under Massachusetts law.
Under Massachusetts law, a would-be plaintiff whose claim is rejected by the medical malpractice tribunal has the option of posting a $6,000 bond and then pursuing his or her claim through the usual judicial process. Rather than post the $6,000 bond in cash, however, the plaintiff posted a “surety bond,” which cost him only $120 out-of-pocket. The defendant moved to strike the surety bond and dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint. The trial court judge allowed the motion and then reported the situation to the appeals court, who then transferred the case to the appellate tribunal on its own initiative.
Decision of the Appellate Court
The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s order striking the plaintiff’s surety bond. According to the court, the purpose of the statute was to discourage would-be litigants from going forward with what a tribunal has determined to be unmeritorious claims. To that end, the statute requires a bond in the amount of $6,000 in “cash or its equivalent.” To allow the plaintiff to proceed after paying only the modest sum of $120 rather than the statutorily prescribed $6,000 did not accomplish the statute’s objective. In so holding, the court noted that the purpose of the statute was not punitive but instead to compensate a defendant for costs should the plaintiff’s claims ultimately fail.
Have You Been Affected by an Act of Medical Malpractice?
Lawsuits involving accusations of medical negligence are complicated, time-consuming, and expensive to pursue. If you believe that you may have a claim against a doctor, nurse, or other health care professional, you should talk to a lawyer as soon as possible. To schedule an appointment with a seasoned Cape Cod medical malpractice lawyer, call the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, today at 888-262-6664, and we will be glad to schedule an appointment in our Hyannis or Plymouth offices. If necessary, we can come to your home or hospital room. Nos falamos Portugues.
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