One of the first steps that any Washington, D.C. personal injury plaintiff must take after filing a lawsuit is serving the named defendants. The law requires that all defendants be served so that they know the allegations they are facing and how they can respond to them. This is a critical step, and if a plaintiff does not effectuate proper service, their case may be dismissed. A recent opinion in a wrongful death case illustrates the serious repercussions that a plaintiff can face if a defendant is not properly served.
The plaintiff’s husband was a patient in the defendant hospital. According to the court’s written opinion, on the day before his death, the plaintiff’s husband was admitted to the hospital with sharp chest pain. The attending physician on duty diagnosed him with gastritis and sent him home. On the following day, the plaintiff’s husband was again admitted to the hospital, this time while in cardiac arrest. He remained in the hospital for a short time longer before he was transported to another hospital, where he ultimately passed away.
About a year later, the hospital closed. Shortly after that, the plaintiff filed a timely wrongful death case against the hospital, claiming that the physician’s negligence in failing to diagnose her husband’s cardiac arrest led to his death. The plaintiff served a former member of the board, who was the hospital’s legal counsel. The hospital responded that service was not proper, and the plaintiff voluntarily withdrew her lawsuit so that she could effectuate proper service.