Univ. of Md. Med. Sys. Corp. v. Muti
August 5, 2020
In Univ. of Md. Med. Sys. Corp. v. Muti, 2012 Md. LEXIS 74 (Feb. 21, 2012) the Court of Appeals held that the failure to name a beneficiary as a use plaintiff in a wrongful death action did not require dismissal under Maryland law. The case involved a wrongful death action brought by the decedent’s widow and his adult children (the Muti family) against the University of Maryland Medical Systems Corporation (UMMSC) for alleged medical malpractice. After the statute of limitations had expired, UMMSC learned that the decedent had a stepson, Ricky, who he adopted during a prior marriage. Since Ricky was not identified as a use plaintiff in the wrongful death action, UMMSC moved to dismiss the complaint for the Mutis’ failure to join a necessary party based on its interpretation of Maryland Court and Judicial Proceedings §3-904(f) and Maryland Rule 15-1001(b). Specifically, UMMSC argued that joining Ricky prior to the running of the statute of limitations was a condition precedent to the maintenance of the Mutis’ claims.
In its opinion the Court relied heavily upon the case of Deford v. State u/o Keyser, 30 Md. 179 (1869), involving a wrongful death action filed by five of the decedent’s nine children. In that case, the non-joinder of the remaining children did not result in a dismissal since the Court reasoned that the existence of additional children who failed to join the action should not prejudice the rights of those who have chosen to join. Citing Deford with approval, the Court of Appeals offered a succinct holding: “[T]he one action clause, that has been in the wrongful death statute since 1852 without substantial change, is not a basis for dismissing an original plaintiff’s claim for failure to identify a potential beneficiary as a use plaintiff.”