[photo, William Donald Schaefer Tower, 6 St. Paul St., Baltimore, Maryland] In 1976, the Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office was established as the Health Claims Arbitration Office (Chapter 235, Acts of 1976). In 2005, it received its present name (Chapter 5, Acts of Special Session of 2004). For medical injury malpractice claims exceeding the District Court jurisdiction in civil cases, the Office provides a system of mandatory arbitration.

Each medical malpractice claim is heard by a three-person panel of arbitrators, including an attorney, a health care provider, and a public member. Parties to the case choose the panel from a list of qualified arbitrators supplied by the Director of the Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office. The panel determines who is liable with respect to the claim and, if a health care provider is liable, considers and assesses damages. To reverse or modify the award, the rejecting party must file an appeal with the Circuit Court.

William Donald Schaefer Tower, 6 St. Paul St., Baltimore, Maryland, July 2003. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.

The arbitration process may be waived by any of the parties and they may proceed to the Circuit Court for trial. A claimant must file a certificate of merit and report from a qualified expert stating that the injury was caused by a departure from the standard of care and that the departure was the proximate cause of the claimant's injury. Waivers must be filed no later than 60 days after the last health care provider submits defense papers.

If the parties mutually agree, the courts may refer health care malpractice claims to the Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office for the purpose of neutral case evaluation (Chapter 5, Acts of Special Session of 2004). In this process, the Director supplies a list of qualified evaluators to all parties. During the evaluation period, the Circuit Court maintains jurisdiction.

The Office also provides information to health care facilities and the public regarding medical malpractice complaints against physicians and other health care providers. All claims are reported to the Board of Physicians, the Maryland State Medical Society, and to others upon request.

The Director is appointed by the Governor with Senate advice and consent (Code Courts & Judicial Proceedings Article, secs. 3-2A-01 through 3-2A-10).

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