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Law School Case Brief

Laboratory Corp. of America v. Hood - 395 Md. 608, 911 A.2d 841 (2006)

Rule:

Unlike most other States, which have abandoned the lex loci delicti approach in favor of the significant contacts test, Maryland continues to adhere generally to the lex loci delicti principle in tort cases. Under that approach, where the events giving rise to a tort action occur in more than one state, courts apply the law of the state where the injury, the last event required to constitute the tort, occurred.

Facts:

Karen and Scott Hood, Maryland residents, argued that Laboratory Corporation of America and Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings, which shall be referred to collectively as LabCorp, were negligent in misreading an amniotic fluid specimen extracted from Karen and erroneously reporting that a fetus was not likely to be affected by cystic fibrosis. Relying on the erroneous report, Karen elected to continue with the pregnancy, and the child was diagnosed with the disease. LabCorp performed the testing in North Carolina. The Hoods filed an action against LabCorp alleging wrongful birth.

Issue:

In a case where a medical laboratory receives a specimen from a Maryland physician and erroneously interprets the specimen in another State, causing injury in Maryland to Maryland residents, should this court follow the "standard of care" exception in the Restatement (first) of Conflicts of Law § 380(2) and apply the substantive law of the State where the erroneous interpretation took place?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The problem underlying the certified questions was that while Maryland recognized an action of this kind, North Carolina apparently did not. The appellate court found that Maryland recognized the limited exception to the lex loci delicti rule that if, under the law of the place of wrong, the liability-creating character of the actor's conduct depended upon the application of a standard of care and such standard had been defined in particular situations by statute or judicial decision of the law of the place of the actor's conduct, such application of the standard would be made by the forum. The appellate court also found that denying Maryland residents the right to bring a wrongful birth action by applying North Carolina law would violate the public policy of Maryland.

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