TITLE 18

Insurance Code

Insurance

CHAPTER 68. HEALTH CARE MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE INSURANCE AND LITIGATION

Subchapter VI. General Provisions


Any legal term or word of art used in this chapter, not otherwise defined, shall have such meaning as is consistent with the common law.

60 Del. Laws, c. 373, § 1.;

No liability shall be imposed upon any health care provider on the basis of an alleged breach of contract, express or implied, assuring results to be obtained from undertaking or not undertaking any diagnostic or therapeutic procedure in the course of health care, unless such contract is set forth in writing and signed by such health care provider or by an authorized agent of such health care provider.

60 Del. Laws, c. 373, § 1.;

(a) No recovery of damages based upon a lack of informed consent shall be allowed in any action for medical negligence unless:

(1) The injury alleged involved a nonemergency treatment, procedure or surgery; and

(2) The injured party proved by a preponderance of evidence that the health care provider did not supply information regarding such treatment, procedure or surgery to the extent customarily given to patients, or other persons authorized to give consent for patients by other licensed health care providers in the same or similar field of medicine as the defendant.

(b) In any action for medical negligence, in addition to other defenses provided by law, it shall be a defense to any allegation that such health care provider treated, examined or otherwise rendered professional care to an injured party without his or her informed consent that:

(1) A person of ordinary intelligence and awareness in a position similar to that of the injured party could reasonably be expected to appreciate and comprehend hazards inherent in such treatment;

(2) The injured party assured the health care provider he or she would undergo the treatment regardless of the risk involved or that he or she did not want to be given the information or any part thereof to which he or she could otherwise be entitled; or

(3) It was reasonable for the health care provider to limit the extent of his or her disclosures of the risks of the treatment, procedure or surgery to the injured party because further disclosure could be expected to affect, adversely and substantially, the injured party's condition, or the outcome of the treatment, procedure or surgery.

60 Del. Laws, c. 373, § 1; 71 Del. Laws, c. 373, §§ 2, 3.;

(a) No healthcare negligence lawsuit shall be filed in this State unless the complaint is accompanied by:

(1) An affidavit of merit as to each defendant signed by an expert witness, as defined in § 6854 of this title, and accompanied by a current curriculum vitae of the witness, stating that there are reasonable grounds to believe that there has been healthcare medical negligence committed by each defendant. If the required affidavit does not accompany the complaint or if a motion to extend the time to file said affidavit as permitted by paragraph (2) of this subsection has not been filed with the court, then the Prothonotary or clerk of the court shall refuse to file the complaint and it shall not be docketed with the court. The affidavit of merit and curriculum vitae shall be filed with the court in a sealed envelope which envelope shall state on its face:

"CONFIDENTIAL SUBJECT TO 18 DEL. C., SECTION 6853. THE CONTENTS OF THIS ENVELOPE MAY ONLY BE VIEWED BY A JUDGE OF THE SUPERIOR COURT."

Notwithstanding any law or rule to the contrary the affidavit of merit shall be and shall remain sealed and confidential, except as provided in subsection (d) of this section, shall not be a public record and is exempt from Chapter 100 of Title 29.

(2) The court, may, upon timely motion of the plaintiff and for good cause shown, grant a single 60-day extension for the time of filing the affidavit of merit. Good cause shall include, but not be limited to, the inability to obtain, despite reasonable efforts, relevant medical records for expert review.

(3) A motion to extend the time for filing an affidavit of merit is timely only if it is filed on or before the filing date that the plaintiff seeks to extend. The filing of a motion to extend the time for filing an affidavit of merit tolls the time period within which the affidavit must be filed until the court rules on the motion.

(4) The defendant or defendants not required to take any action with respect to the complaint in such cases until 20 days after plaintiff has filed the affidavit or affidavits of merit.

(b) An affidavit of merit shall be unnecessary if the complaint alleges a rebuttable inference of medical negligence, the grounds of which are set forth below in subsection (e) of this section.

(c) Qualifications of expert and contents of affidavit. — The affidavit or affidavits of merit shall set forth the expert's opinion that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the applicable standard of care was breached by the named defendant or defendants and that the breach was a proximate cause of injury or injuries claimed in the complaint. An expert signing an affidavit of merit shall be licensed to practice medicine as of the date of the affidavit; and in the 3 years immediately preceding the alleged negligent act has been engaged in the treatment of patients and/or in the teaching/academic side of medicine in the same or similar field of medicine as the defendant or defendants, and the expert shall be Board certified in the same or similar field of medicine if the defendant or defendants is Board certified. The Board Certification requirement shall not apply to an expert that began the practice of medicine prior to the existence of Board certification in the applicable specialty.

(d) Upon motion by the defendant the court shall determine in camera if the affidavit of merit complies with paragraph (a)(1) and subsection (c) of this section. The affidavit of merit shall not be discoverable in any medical negligence action. The affidavit of merit itself, and the fact that an expert has signed the affidavit of merit, shall not be admissible nor may the expert be questioned in any respect about the existence of said affidavit in the underlying medical negligence action or any subsequent unrelated medical negligence action in which that expert is a witness.

(e) No liability shall be based upon asserted negligence unless expert medical testimony is presented as to the alleged deviation from the applicable standard of care in the specific circumstances of the case and as to the causation of the alleged personal injury or death, except that such expert medical testimony shall not be required if a medical negligence review panel has found negligence to have occurred and to have caused the alleged personal injury or death and the opinion of such panel is admitted into evidence; provided, however, that a rebuttable inference that personal injury or death was caused by negligence shall arise where evidence is presented that the personal injury or death occurred in any 1 or more of the following circumstances:

(1) A foreign object was unintentionally left within the body of the patient following surgery;

(2) An explosion or fire originating in a substance used in treatment occurred in the course of treatment; or

(3) A surgical procedure was performed on the wrong patient or the wrong organ, limb or part of the patient's body.

Except as otherwise provided herein, there shall be no inference or presumption of negligence on the part of a health care provider.

60 Del. Laws, c. 373, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1; 71 Del. Laws, c. 373, § 3; 74 Del. Laws, c. 148, § 1; 74 Del. Laws, c. 391, § 1.;

No person shall be competent to give expert medical testimony as to applicable standards of skill and care unless such person is familiar with the degree of skill ordinarily employed in the field of medicine on which he or she will testify.

60 Del. Laws, c. 373, § 1; 62 Del. Laws, c. 274, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 415, § 1.;

In any action for medical negligence, punitive damages may be awarded only if it is found that the injury complained of was maliciously intended or was the result of wilful or wanton misconduct by the health care provider, and may be awarded only if separately awarded by the trier of fact in a separate finding from any finding of compensatory damages which separate finding shall also state the amounts being awarded for each such category of damages. Injuries shall not be considered maliciously intended in instances in which unforeseen damage or injury results from intended medication, manipulation, surgery, treatment or the intended omission thereof, administered or omitted without actual malice or if the intended treatment is applied or omitted by mistake to or for the wrong patient or wrong organ.

60 Del. Laws, c. 373, § 1; 71 Del. Laws, c. 373, § 3.;

No action for the recovery of damages upon a claim against a health care provider for personal injury, including personal injury which results in death, arising out of medical negligence shall be brought after the expiration of 2 years from the date upon which such injury occurred; provided, however, that:

(1) Solely in the event of personal injury the occurrence of which, during such period of 2 years, was unknown to and could not in the exercise of reasonable diligence have been discovered by the injured person, such action may be brought prior to the expiration of 3 years from the date upon which such injury occurred, and not thereafter; and

(2) A minor under the age of 6 years shall have until the latter of time for bringing such an action as provided for hereinabove or until the minor's 6th birthday in which to bring an action.

(3)a. Notwithstanding any provision to the contrary, a cause of action based on the sexual abuse of a child patient by a health care provider may be brought at any time following the commission of the act or acts that constituted the sexual abuse. A civil cause of action for sexual abuse of a child patient by a health care provider shall be based upon sexual acts which would constitute a criminal offense under the Delaware Code.

b. Through July 13, 2012, a child patient who has been a victim of sexual abuse by a health care provider which was discovered and reported to a person or legal entity specified in § 1731A of Title 24 or which was unknown to and could not in the exercise of reasonable diligence have been discovered by the child patient or a parent, guardian, and/or next friend of a child patient, and as a consequence whose claim is barred by virtue of the expiration of the former civil statute of limitations, shall be permitted to file such claim in the Superior Court of this State. If the health care provider committing the act of sexual abuse against a child patient was employed by an institution, agency, firm, business, corporation, or other public or private legal entity licensed by the State to provide health care services that owed a duty of care to the child patient, or the health care provider was engaged in some activity over which such legal entity had control, damages against such legal entity shall be awarded under this paragraph only if there is a finding of gross negligence on the part of the legal entity.

c. A person against whom a suit is filed may recover attorneys' fees where the Court determines that a false accusation was made with no basis in fact and with malicious intent. A verdict in favor of the accused shall not be the sole basis for a determination that an accusation was false. The Court must make an independent finding of an improper motive to award attorneys' fees under this section.

d. Nothing contained in this section shall apply to conduct by a health care provider which is consistent with the recognized standard of care or the subject of a written consent.

(4) A plaintiff may toll the above statutes of limitations for a period of time up to 90 days from the applicable limitations contained in this section by sending a Notice of Intent to investigate to each potential defendant or defendants by certified mail, return receipt requested, at the defendant's or defendants' regular place of business. The notice shall state the name of the potential defendant or defendants, the potential plaintiff and give a brief description of the issue being investigated by plaintiff's counsel. The 90 days shall run from the last day of the applicable statute of limitations contained in this section. The notice shall not be filed with the court. If suit is filed after the applicable statute of limitations in this section, but before the 90-day period in this section expires, a copy of the notice shall be attached to the complaint to prove compliance with the statute of limitations.

60 Del. Laws, c. 373, § 1; 71 Del. Laws, c. 373, § 3; 74 Del. Laws, c. 148, § 2; 74 Del. Laws, c. 391, §§ 2, 3; 77 Del. Laws, c. 384, § 1.;

This chapter applies to actions, cases and proceedings brought after April 26, 1976, and also applies to any further conduct of actions, cases and proceedings then pending, except to the extent that application of this chapter would not be feasible, or would work injustice, in which event former procedures apply.

60 Del. Laws, c. 373, § 1.;

No insurance policy sold or delivered in this State providing insurance for acts of medical negligence or malpractice shall revoke the tail coverage of a retired physician as a consequence of that physician ending that physician's retirement for the specific and sole purpose of practicing medicine at a Veterans Administration facility in the State. Any contract language inconsistent with this section is void under Delaware law.

76 Del. Laws, c. 417, § 2; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1.;