Baltimore Malpractice Lawyers: Mandatory Arbitration is Not Really Mandatory

Baltimore Malpractice Lawyers: Mandatory Arbitration is Not Really Mandatory

In 1976, Maryland lawmakers enacted the Maryland Health Care Malpractice Claims Act, which instituted mandatory arbitration as the starting point for malpractice claims against health care providers in the state. Initial claims must be filed with the Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office, the agency responsible for overseeing the mandatory arbitration. The law then goes on to lay out, step by step, the ensuing arbitration process:

  • The Director of the Health Claims Dispute Resolution Office provides each party with a list of potential arbitrators, chosen at random from a pool of qualified health care malpractice claims mediators and then vetted for any potential conflict of interest in the case.
  • The parties have 15 days to file objections to any of the individuals on the list.
  • The director determines whether to replace anyone on the list and issue a revised list.
  • The parties have 30 days to strike names from the list and return a copy, indicating their strikes, to the Director.
  • The director selects mutually agreeable arbitrators and alternates to serve as the dispute resolution panel, usually consisting of an attorney, a health care provider (preferably specializing in an area related to the case), and a member of the public. Alternatively, the parties may agree upon a single individual to serve as arbitrator.
  • The arbitration begins.

That is all well and good, except for one thing: it hardly ever happens. Various provisions of the Act allow the parties, either individually or by written mutual consent, to waive arbitration proceedings early on and go straight to court. And that is generally the preferred course of action by Baltimore malpractice lawyers.