Kratz v. Medsource Community Services, Inc.
August 5, 2020
The Maryland Court of Special Appeals affirmed dismissal on statute of limitations grounds finding that the appointment of a guardian removes the disability of a mentally incompetent individual for purposes of the Maryland tolling statute.
On July 18, 2008, the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County found that Kurt Kratz, an adult, lacked the capacity to make responsible decisions and appointed his mother and sister guardians. On June 18, 2013, and June 6, 2014, Kratz’s guardians filed complaints against MedSource Community Services for medical negligence arising from incidents that occurred on March 22, 2006 and November 24, 2009. MedSource filed a Motion to Dismiss arguing that the statute of limitations, which began running when guardians were appointed, had expired. The Circuit Court for Prince George’s County agreed with MedSource and granted the Motion to Dismiss. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed.
Under Maryland law, a party must bring a claim for medical negligence within three years of discovery of the injury. However, when a cause of action accrues in favor of a mentally incompetent person, that person may file an action within three years after the date the mental incompetency is removed. Plaintiff argued that for limitations purposes, disability for mental incompetency is similar to disability for minors. The statute of limitations for minors is tolled until the minor reaches the age of majority regardless of the appointment of a guardian. The Court rejected Plaintiffs arguments and explained that unlike minority, there is no definite date when the disability for mental incapacity will be removed.
The Court further reasoned that a mentally incompetent person’s interest should be adequately protected by the appointment of a guardian, as such appointment grants to the guardian the powers necessary to provide for the needs of the disabled persons. Therefore, the Court held that “[t]he tolling exception preserves the legal rights of a mentally incompetent individual until a guardian is appointed; once a guardian is appointed, and gains the requisite knowledge to file a claim on the individual’s behalf, the statute begins to run.”