Posts Tagged ‘#LBC’

Legal Boot Camp (Second Class): The Story of Mark and Susan– Common Law Marriage in Maryland

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

From the Editor – Please see our disclaimer at the end of this blog for a better understanding of the limitations of this series and our mission statement. Brian Nash

Their Story

Mark and Susan had been living together in a small apartment in Baltimore for 12 years. Both of their names were on the lease and they share a used car to commute back and forth to their jobs. Both names appeared on the utility bills and although they never had an actual “ceremony,” they always considered themselves to be husband and wife. Mark and Susan always assumed that the state of Maryland would consider their relationship to be a “common law marriage.” Ten months ago, Susan began experiencing unfamiliar stomach pains. Her doctor assured her that she was fine and that no follow-up examinations were necessary. Six months ago, Susan was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Tragically, Susan died last week. Mark is certain that Susan was the victim of medical malpractice and wants to file an action for medical malpractice. Mark is now concerned that his common law marriage might not be valid.  Is it?

Common Law Marriage

A “common law marriage” is one in which the parties may hold themselves out as a husband and wife, and under certain circumstances, be deemed married without a marriage license or ceremony. Maryland does not allow the creation of a “common law” marriage, a relationship in which a couple lives together but have not participated in a lawful ceremony. Unlike some other states, in Maryland a couple cannot acquire marital rights and responsibilities by living together for a particular period of time. However, Maryland does recognize as valid, common law marriages created in other states if the legal requirements of those states have been met.

Because of Maryland’s law, despite living together, owning a car and holding themselves out as “man and wife,” Mark and Susan’s relationship is not recognized as a valid marriage by the state of Maryland.

In the setting of a medical malpractice (or personal injury) claim, this has serious consequences. For example, in a medical malpractice lawsuit alleging wrongful death, the basis of such a lawsuit is essentially that due to the negligence of a health care provider, such as a doctor, nurse, physician’s assistant or hospital, a loved one has died. The death is considered to be “wrongful” because you, as a Plaintiff, are alleging that it was the negligence of the health care provider that cause your loved one’s death.

Typically, the person or persons allowed to recover for wrongful death are those members of the decedent’s immediate family, such as spouse, children or mother or father—depending on who the ‘legal beneficiaries’ are in each given situation. Sadly, for Mark, it is highly unlikely that he would qualify as one of Susan’s beneficiaries since they were never, under Maryland law, legally married.

An in-depth discussion of Wrongful Death, Survival Actions and filing medical malpractice actions in the state of Maryland and District of Columbia is also covered in our White Paper:  “Wrongful Death and Survival Actions.”

Disclaimer: As is the case with all of our blogs and the writings posted on our website, we are not offering legal advice to our readers. This information in our series,Legal Boot Camp, is being presented in the hope that we can provide some education about the law in Maryland and the District of Columbia. The law in the field of personal injury (and particularly in our sub-specialty of medical malpractice) can be complex and confusing at times. Even in these two jurisdictions where we are licensed to practice, the laws and their interpretation by the courts can vary significantly. It is simply our hope that by presenting this series – Legal Boot Camp - that we can provide a better understanding of some legal principles that can come into play when bringing a civil claim or lawsuit for damages as a result of the wrongdoing of others.
For those who do not live in either Maryland or the Washington, D.C., we hope that we can at least raise some issues for you to consider when you speak with an attorney licensed to practice in the state in which you live. Many times the basic concepts of law are similar. We hope that by raising some of these issues applicable to Maryland and the District of Columbia, you will at least have a basic understanding of some terms and principles that may apply to your situation. Don’t be afraid to raise these issues with your attorney. Education – be it in law or medicine – is our main goal.
Finally, please see our introductory blog for Legal Boot Camp for a better understanding of our mission in presenting this series.

 

New Blog Series:Legal Boot Camp

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

I’m really pleased to announce a new series we’re starting today. If you’re a reader of our blog, you know that we post numerous times a week on health, safety, medicine and related law topics. That’s what we do in our firm – we represent people who are injured by the negligence of health care providers and those who suffer catastrophic injuries in non-medical settings as well. So, sharing what we believe is some good information about medical, health and safety issues is our mission. We strongly believe that our social networking should be about giving good information, engaging in dialogue about relevant issues – just plain good, old sharing.

For well over a year now, we’ve been blogging away on these topics. No, we’re not doctors; we just happen to deal with medical, safety and health issues in our daily law practice. Our experience, which is a combined one of many decades (roughly over 75 years) of litigating personal injury and our sub-specialty of medical malpractice cases has given us some pretty good insights into how law and medicine intertwine.

What’s new then…?

We’ve said this so many times that I’ve lost any realistic count – an informed patient is one who can better serve their own health care and medical needs. Our “tips and tricks” have been designed to make our readers more educated in health and safety issues so that when they have a medical condition or need medical care or suffer serious injuries along the way, they are hopefully better equipped to get involved in dealing with their issues.

Well, now the time has come, we feel, to make our readers more educated in the laws that potentially affect their lives as well. Love lawyers or hate lawyers (or somewhere in between), there’s no escaping the reality that every one of us lives within a social framework of laws – some created by the common law and some by legislation. We want to offer you, our readers, some insights into what some of the laws are that can possibly affect you in the field of personal injury and medical malpractice. A better educated client is our goal and our new add-on mission. We’ll keep trying to put good, new content out there for you about health, medicine and safety. It’s our bread and butter of social networking. Since we’re lawyers, however, we figured – hey, why not share some information and insights about the law with you as well. You won’t even get a tuition bill in the mail – what a deal!

What will be discussing that might interest you?

First I need to be clear on the scope of what we’ll be discussing. Our lawyers are admitted in Maryland and Washington, D.C. Sure, we occasionally will seek permission from courts in other states to appear before them through a procedure known as pro hac vice – (okay – check out the link if you want – you just had your first mini-law-lesson).Those cases are, of necessity, few and far between. We’re pretty darn busy helping people in our own backyard(s)- D.C. and Maryland. So, with that in mind, we’re going to gear our posts for the Legal Boot Camp to legal issues in Maryland and Washington, D.C. If you don’t live in one of these beautiful places, you might want to have a “read” anyway. Needless to say, laws can vary tremendously from one jurisdiction to another. The legal issues, however, are many times common to all. The answers are often what vary. Central to any civil lawsuit for personal injury or medical malpractice case might be issues such as what is a statute of limitations?, or what is a statute of repose?, or what’s the difference between them?, or what damages are recoverable in a personal injury lawsuit, or what is meant by “the standard of care” in a medical malpractice case? or what really is a common law marriage? and on and on and on.

The Disclaimer

Yeah, you had to know one was coming. Hey, we are lawyers!

If you didn’t know, we can’t offer you legal advice in a blog, tweet or Facebook post. We can, however, share some of our knowledge of issues that just might impact you. No, just by reading our posts we do not have an attorney-client relationship. OK…got it? I suspect you do, so let’s move on.

Our “Legal Boot Camp” Format

For those of you who haven’t been to law school, let me start by sharing the typical way a class in law school would go – at least when I was there a few years ago. Yes, we had real, electric lights way back then and were not limited to studying by the glow of a fireplace or candle.

The assignments in whatever class you were taking were pretty much the same. Read a case or two (in torts, contracts, corporations, etc.). When you came to class, be prepared to “present” the following: (a) the facts of the case, (b) the issues of the case and (c) the holding(s) of the case. From there the discussion would take off. Well, since this style of legal education seems to have worked for quite a few of my fellow lawyers, that’s what we’re typically going to do.

The facts….and only the facts…

We’ll be giving you a fact pattern so you can see the issue and the law in a factual context. Politicians now like to give you a story first for their message. Why not us? The facts for our posts will sometimes be from cases we’ve handled or are currently working on (all identifying information will be deleted or modified for a host of reasons). Sometimes we’ll make our fact pattern as a composite from various cases we’ve handled. We hope you’ll find that they’re done in such a way as to make the issues and the legal holdings more understandable.

So, hand in your class attendance card; let’s have some fun!

We’re starting off this series with a post by Sarah Keogh, which I’ll post right after I hit “publish” on this announcement piece. Sarah tells the story of Pam, who was a swimming instructor before she was injured during a simple surgical procedure at a local Maryland hospital. What rights and claims does Pam have for her lost wages – even if she wasn’t making a whole lot, if anything – at the time of her surgery? Does she have any or is she flat out of luck for the rest of her days? Read the facts, figure out the “issue,” and learn some law.

Before you head over to your first class on Maryland law, here’s a tip. If you want to follow the course and would like easy access to our lessons, you can go to our search bar on the main blog page and just type in “Legal Boot Camp.” We’re also going to tag our Twitter posts in this series with the designation #LBC. Ok…now hand in your card and get your free legal education.