Premises liability law holds a property owner accountable for injuries that occur on that individual’s or entity’s property. Victims often bring a personal injury claim alleging negligence on the part of the owner, as the plaintiff did in Watson v. J.C. Penney Corp., Inc. (D. Md. Nov. 30, 2015). In Watson, the plaintiff was visiting the defendant’s store when she fell shortly after walking inside. The defendant moved for summary judgment, and the motion was considered by the U.S. District Court, applying Maryland law.cone

In Maryland, a property owner owes a duty to an individual who comes in contact with the property, the scope of which is dependent upon the individual’s status. In Watson, the plaintiff was a customer in the store for a business purpose and thus had invitee status. The defendant therefore had a duty to use reasonable and ordinary care to keep its premises safe and protect against an unreasonable risk of injury that the plaintiff would be unlikely to perceive in her exercise of ordinary care. When, as in Watson, the fall was caused by a foreign substance on the floor, the burden is on the plaintiff to produce evidence that the defendant created the dangerous condition or had actual or constructive knowledge of its existence.

In Watson, the plaintiff testified that after she fell, she noticed a film of slippery, soapy residue covering the entire floor. After reviewing the evidence, the court found that the plaintiff’s declarations could not prove that the defendant had actual knowledge that the floor was hazardous or that it was aware of the residue prior to the plaintiff’s fall. Nevertheless, the court explained that constructive knowledge may be imputed to a defendant if the plaintiff can demonstrate the dangerous condition existed for a sufficient period of time to permit the defendant, exercising reasonable care, to discover it. In Watson, the court ultimately found that the plaintiff could not establish constructive knowledge, since the residue on the floor was not readily apparent, and employees may not have observed the condition on a day that was during the height of the Christmas shopping season.

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In a recent car accident case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a jury verdict returned in favor of the defendant. In Lewin v. Balakhani (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Aug. 17, 2016), the defendant was stopped over the median line with the intention of making a left-hand turn. The oncoming plaintiff swerved to avoid a collision with the defendant’s vehicle but hit a vehicle that was parallel-parked on the shoulder of the road. The plaintiff brought a negligence claim against the defendant, alleging that her violation of the left-hand turn statute was the proximate cause of the accident. After a trial, the jury considered the evidence and found that the defendant was not negligent. The judge subsequently denied the plaintiff’s motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, and the plaintiff accident

On appeal, the court explained that the violation of a statute alone will not support an action for damages, unless there is legally sufficient evidence to show that the violation was a proximate cause of the injury complained of. Instead, the plaintiff must introduce evidence to afford a reasonable basis for the conclusion that it is more likely than not that the conduct of the defendant was a substantial factor in bringing about the injury. In Lewin, although the plaintiff presented evidence that the defendant violated a traffic law, the defendant rebutted with evidence that her conduct did not cause the subsequent collision that occurred between the plaintiff and the parked vehicle. In addition, a witness testified that he did not see the plaintiff attempting to stop before the collision. As a result, the court ruled that the evidence was sufficient for the trial court to properly deny the plaintiff’s post-judgment motions.

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In order to succeed in a negligence lawsuit, a plaintiff must not only prove that the defendant breached a duty of care but also prove that the defendant’s breach was the cause of the plaintiff’s injury. The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland addressed the issue of causation in a recent medical malpractice action, Hardy v. Advanced Radiology, P.A. (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Aug. 17, 2016). Although the court accepted that the doctor breached the standard of care, it ultimately held that the plaintiff failed to establish the necessary causal link between the doctor’s breach and the plaintiff’s

In Hardy, the plaintiff underwent a CT scan of his abdomen in February 2006. The defendant, a radiologist, interpreted the scan as showing nothing abnormal. The plaintiff sought a second opinion from another hospital 19 days later. Two different radiologists detected a mass, and a surgical consult was ordered. The surgeon reviewed the scan and reported that it looked benign, recommending follow-up CT scans. For the next several years, follow-up CT scans were performed annually. In December 2011, the plaintiff underwent a sixth CT scan, showing that the mass had doubled in size, and a biopsy of the mass led to a diagnosis as a cancerous tumor. The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice lawsuit in January 2013 against his doctors, including the defendant who interpreted his first CT scan.

At trial, the plaintiff’s experts testified that the defendant had breached the medical standard of care by failing to identify the mass in the plaintiff’s abdomen. At the close of evidence, the defendant moved for judgment, arguing that the plaintiff failed to prove that the defendant’s breach caused the plaintiff’s injury. The trial court denied the defendant’s motions. The jury found the defendant negligent and awarded $20,635 in damages. On appeal, the defendant again argued that the plaintiff failed to establish the element of causation.

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In an interesting car accident case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland ruled in favor of the plaintiff in a negligence claim against the county for its failure to maintain a stop sign. In particular, the court took issue with a line of questioning involving the plaintiff’s previous traffic offenses and the prejudicial influence it had on the jury.highway

In McKenzie v. Anne Arundel Cty. (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Aug. 17, 2016), the plaintiff was involved in an automobile accident after driving from a residential street into a highway. In 1995, the Department of Public Works installed a stop sign on the privately owned street. However, it was no longer in place at the time of the accident in 2010. After the collision, the county replaced the stop sign. The plaintiff filed an action against the county, asserting that it negligently failed to maintain a stop sign at the intersection of the residential street. Following a trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the county.

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the trial court erred by permitting testimony concerning her driving record. During the defendant’s cross-examination, the plaintiff had been asked about her driving history, including questions regarding a previous conviction of unsafe operation of a motor vehicle, operating a motor vehicle while using a handheld cell phone, and suspension of her driver’s license. The plaintiff alleged that the introduction of past instances of negligence was a violation of the Maryland Rules of Evidence. The defendant argued that the line of questioning was intended to impeach the plaintiff’s testimony that she was a safe driver.

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The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland addressed the legal concept of assumption of risk in a recent car accident case involving intoxicated driving. In Evans v. Shores (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Sept. 8, 2016), the plaintiff was aware the defendant had been drinking when she got into his truck. The defendant crashed the vehicle into a ditch, injuring the plaintiff. The plaintiff brought suit against the defendant for her injuries. Following a trial, the jury found that the plaintiff assumed the risk of her injuries when she agreed to ride with him. The plaintiff subsequently appealed.drinking glass

To establish a negligence claim in Maryland, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed her a duty of care, the defendant failed to adhere to that duty, the plaintiff was injured as a result, and the plaintiff suffered damages. However, if the plaintiff was also negligent in causing her injuries, she may be barred from recovery. Similarly, if the plaintiff agreed to expose herself to the risk of danger, she may not win in a negligence claim.

The test in determining voluntary assumption of the risk is whether there was an intentional and unreasonable exposure to danger, which the plaintiff either knew or had reason to know. Generally, a passenger is not negligent in riding with an intoxicated driver if she is unaware he is intoxicated, or she does not notice any facts that would arouse the suspicions of a person of ordinary prudence. Whether a plaintiff was contributorily negligent in entrusting her safety to the driver is typically a question submitted to the jury.

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In a recent opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a lower court’s decision granting summary judgment against the plaintiff in a lead paint exposure case. In Carter v. Hous. Auth. of Baltimore City (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Sept. 8, 2016), the plaintiff brought a personal injury lawsuit against the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) after she was found to have elevated blood-lead levels. The plaintiff alleged that her injuries related to lead-based paint exposure were sustained while she resided in an HABC-owned property from 1987 to 1992.lead paint

Although a jury found in favor of the plaintiff, that verdict was remanded after the appeals court found that the plaintiff’s expert lacked a sufficient factual basis for his opinion that the defendant’s property was the source of the lead exposure. Rather than retaining a new expert witness, the plaintiff filed a supplemental affidavit from the same expert in an attempt to rectify weaknesses in his prior affidavit. The defendant moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted after finding that the supplemental affidavit didn’t cure the defect. The plaintiff then brought the current appeal.

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Retaining legally qualified experts to testify in your medical malpractice case is a crucial part of a successful claim. The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland discussed some of these requirements in a recent medical malpractice case, Streaker v. Boushehri (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Sept. 28, 2016).medical malpractice

In Streaker, the plaintiff brought a negligence and breach of contract action against a nurse midwife and her practice. The lower court granted the defendant’s motion to exclude the plaintiff’s expert testimony, finding that the expert devoted more than 20 percent of his professional activity to testifying in personal injury claims. The plaintiff appealed that decision to the higher court.

To file a medical malpractice action in Maryland, a plaintiff must initially file a certificate of a qualified expert, attesting that the defendant departed from the standard of care and that the departure proximately caused the alleged injury to the plaintiff. In medical malpractice cases, a qualified expert is not only measured by education, experience, and expertise, pursuant to Maryland Rule 5-702, but also by an additional statutory threshold. Commonly referred to as the “Twenty Percent Rule,” it provides that qualified experts may not devote annually more than 20 percent of their professional activities to activities that directly involve testimony in personal injury claims.

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In some cases, a medical malpractice claim may be brought after the statutory deadline for filing if it falls under a tolling exception. One of those exceptions may allow a mentally incompetent person to bring an action after the typical filing deadlines. In Kratz ex rel. Kratz-Spera v. MedSource Cmty. Servs., Inc., 228 Md. App. 476 (2016), the adult plaintiff suffered from severe autism and intellectual disability, and he lived in a group home operated by the defendant. In 2008, the plaintiff’s mother and sister were named as his court-appointed guardians. In 2013, after the plaintiff was injured in two separate incidents at the defendant’s group home in 2006 and 2009, his guardians brought suit against the defendant on his behalf. The defendant moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that it was not timely filed, and the trial court granted the motion.laboratory form

In general, the Maryland Health Care Malpractice Claims Act provides that a cause of action must be brought against a health care provider within three years of the date the injury was discovered, or in any event no more than five years from the date of the injury. However, in the case of a minor or a mentally incompetent person, the action must be filed within the lesser of three years or the applicable period of limitations after the date the disability is removed. In Kratz ex rel. Kratz-Spera v. MedSource Cmty. Servs., Inc., the plaintiff’s mother knew of the 2006 incident on the day it happened, and she was notified of the 2008 incident on the next morning.

On appeal, the issue for the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland was whether the appointment of a guardian of a mentally incompetent person removes the disability of that person for the purposes of applying the statute of limitations. The court ultimately held that the tolling exception preserves the legal rights of a mentally incompetent individual until a guardian is appointed. Once a guardian is appointed, and he or she gains the requisite knowledge to file a claim on the individual’s behalf, the statute begins to run.

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The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland recently reviewed a case involving a property owner’s liability for exposure to lead paint. In Christian v. Levitas (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Aug. 1, 2016), the plaintiff brought a negligence claim against the defendant after blood tests revealed elevated levels of lead while residing at the defendant’s property. The defendant filed a motion to exclude the plaintiff’s expert from testifying as to medical causation and the source of lead exposure. The trial court granted the motion to exclude, as well as summary judgment against the plaintiff due to a lack of expert testimony as to causation.lead paint

In the plaintiff’s previous appeal, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals initially affirmed the ruling, finding that the plaintiff’s expert lacked experience administering IQ tests relevant to the mental injuries the plaintiff claimed to have suffered as a result of lead paint poisoning. However, the Maryland Court of Appeal vacated the judgment and remanded for reconsideration pursuant to its holding in Roy v. Dackman, 445 Md. 23 (2015). As a result, the matter was again in front of the Court of Special Appeals.

In Christian, the plaintiff had lived for nearly two years as a toddler on the defendant’s property, which contained chipping, peeling, and flaking paint. The plaintiff’s blood lead levels were also elevated when he was living at the property. The plaintiff’s expert testified that his medical injuries had been caused by exposure to the lead-based paint at the defendant’s property. His opinion that lead-based paint was present at that property was based on circumstantial evidence of the age of the home and the presence of lead paint on the exterior of the property.

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In an important decision, Maryland’s highest state court held that a social host who illegally allows alcohol to be consumed by an underage person on his or her property owes a duty to another person injured as a result. In Kiriakos v. Phillips (Md. July 5, 2016), the Court of Appeals of Maryland reviewed two separate cases involving underage people drinking alcohol on an adult’s property and then leaving the property in a motor vehicle. In both cases, the victims brought a negligence claim against the adult property owners.negligence

In Kiriakos, the plaintiff was walking her dog when she was hit on the sidewalk by a truck driven by a teenager, causing her life-threatening injuries. The teenager had been drinking alcohol provided by the defendant at the defendant’s house the prior evening. The teenager drove home early the next morning with a blood alcohol level of .08 at the time of the accident. The plaintiff brought suit against the defendant, alleging that he owed a duty to the public in general not to provide alcohol to someone underage with knowledge that the underage person would drive under the influence. The lower courts found that no liability existed, and the plaintiff subsequently appealed.

On appeal, the court ultimately held that, although Maryland has not recognized social host liability to third persons, there exists a limited form of social host liability in negligence based on the strong public policy reflected by Maryland statute § 10–117(b), which prohibits adults from allowing underage drinking on their property. However, liability only exists when the adults in question act knowingly and willfully, as required by the statute. The court went on to explain that its holding is consistent with the factors used to determine whether a duty exists under common law, such as the foreseeability of harm to the plaintiff, the closeness of the connection between the defendant’s conduct and the injury suffered, the moral blame attached to the defendant’s conduct, the policy of preventing future harm, and others.

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