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Lewis v. Washington Hosp. Center

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

October 3, 2013

Sylvia B. LEWIS, Appellant,
v.
WASHINGTON HOSPITAL CENTER, Appellee.

Submitted May 23, 2013.

Michael R. Murphey, Washington, DC, was on the brief for appellant.

Crystal S. Deese and Matthew J. Focht, Rockville, MD, were on the brief for appellee.

Before THOMPSON and McLEESE, Associate Judges, and NEBEKER, Senior Judge.

Page 379

McLEESE, Associate Judge:

Generally, one who intends to file a medical malpractice suit against a healthcare provider is required to provide notice of intent to sue at least ninety days before filing suit. D.C.Code § 16-2802(a) (2012 Repl.). Appellant Sylvia Lewis did not comply with that requirement. This case presents the question whether the trial court had authority to waive the notice requirement " in the interests of justice," pursuant to D.C.Code § 16-2804(b) (2012 Repl.). The trial court initially ruled that it had such authority, and found that a waiver of the notice requirement would be in the interests of justice under the circumstances of this case. Subsequently, the trial court granted appellee Washington Hospital Center's motion to reconsider, concluded that it lacked authority to grant such a waiver, and dismissed the action. We agree with the trial court's initial ruling and therefore reverse.

I.

In initially denying the hospital's motion to dismiss, the trial court ruled that D.C.Code § 16-2804(b) allowed a waiver of the notice requirement in D.C.Code § 16-2802(a) " if the interests of justice dictate." [1] The trial court also found that the interests of justice dictated a waiver in the circumstances of this case.

The hospital filed a motion to reconsider. In its motion, the hospital argued that § 16-2804(b) permits waiver only in cases involving " an otherwise unknown or unlicensed defendant, or a misnomer." Because this case did not involve an unknown or unlicensed defendant or a misnomer, the hospital contended that an " interests of justice" waiver was not available. Rather, according to the hospital, this case was governed by § 16-2802(a), which permits a waiver of the notice requirement only " [u]pon a showing of a good-faith effort to give the required notice...." Because no such showing had been made in this case, the hospital contended that dismissal was required.

The trial court granted reconsideration and dismissed the action. The trial court concluded that " the more reasonable reading of §§ 2802(a) and 2804(b) is that the first provision creates only a ‘ good faith effort’ exception and that the ‘ interest[s] of justice’ exception in the second provision applies only in cases implicating one or more of the special circumstances identified in § 2804(a)(1)-(3)."

II.

We review de novo an order granting a motion to dismiss. Chamberlain v. American Honda Fin. Corp., 931 A.2d 1018, 1022 (D.C.2007). Moreover, the proper interpretation of statutory provisions

Page 380

is a question of law that we resolve de novo. McNeely v. United States, 874 ...


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