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The Requirement for Mediation: D.C. Medical Malpractice Actions

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Medical malpractice filings in the District of Columbia are subject to Chapter 28 Medical Malpractice, Requirement for Mediation (§ 16–2821) prior to litigation. When malpractice action is filed against a healthcare provider, D.C. courts require both parties assent to mediation. Mediation is typically without discovery. Courts follow a strict timetable of mediation sessions. The stay of discovery is not more than 30 days. In some circumstances, if all parties agree, limited discovery not interfering with the mediation during the 30 days of an Initial Scheduling and Settlement Conference (“ISSC”) may be allowed before litigation in an effort to reach a settlement. The ISSC sets the mediation schedule, to be included in the scheduling conference order.

Medical Malpractice Mediation Procedure

The Medical Malpractice Proceedings Act of 2006 guides District of Columbia court procedure for medical negligence complaints. Court-ordered mediation is mandatory for all named parties in a medical malpractice complaint. The rules to mediators (§ 16–2823) requires that individuals on the D.C. court medical malpractice mediator roster have a minimum of 10 years of experience as a judge or lawyer. Parties may elect to hire a mediator outside of court provision. If the parties cannot agree on a mediator, the court will appoint one. All named parties must attend the mediation sessions, or hire an attorney with settlement authority to attend on their behalf. Attorneys are required to attend court-scheduled mediation sessions.

A Mediation Report is filed with a District of Columbia court no later than 10 days after the mediation session. The report informs the court of attendance, settlement, or scope of dispute and status of settlement negotiations in the interest of reducing the time and expense of trial preparation. District of Columbia shared fault laws of “contributory negligence laws” stipulate that if a plaintiff is negligent in their own medical condition, injury, or illness, they are fully barred from recovery in a medical malpractice case. Damages are apportioned based on contributory fault.  The report summates facts about the alleged malpractice, including any admission of shared fault.

Medical malpractice mediation sessions are confidential. All statements made by any named party, attorney, or expert witness is to be privileged, and may not be construed as an admission of counter-interest or be referenced in court in trial of the case or other litigation. There are no binding statements, with the exception of the settlement agreement. Mediators must uphold an oath of non-disclosure about mediation proceedings at any subsequent trial.

Statutory Limits to Medical Malpractice Filings

The Statute of Limitations for filing of medical malpractice complaints in District of Columbia stipulates up to four separate deadlines. The Standard Deadline provides victims of medical negligence three years to file a case. Exception to the standard rule is the Discovery Rule, protecting victims without reasonable knowledge of a violation, the factual cause of injury, or having evidence of the wrongdoing, Minor children under age 18 are exempt from the standard rule to filing until their twenty-first birthday. Extension is also granted to complaints evidencing that the defendant fraudulently concealed the malpractice or left the jurisdiction after committing the malpractice act or if the victim was mentally incompetent or imprisoned at the time it occurred.

If seeking legal counsel in a medical malpractice lawsuit in Washington, D.C., contact The Law Offices of Duane O. King, PC for help fighting for the justice you deserve.

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