If an insurance company refuses to cover your injuries after a Maryland car accident case, you may have to take legal action.  In some situations, you may be able to recover your attorney’s fees and court costs in bringing the lawsuit.  In an April 16, 2019 case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered whether an auto insurance company should have been ordered to pay the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees and costs after she successfully obtained a settlement.

The plaintiff in the case was injured in a motor vehicle collision in Maryland.  The driver who caused the accident was in a rental car at the time.  He was insured by the defendant insurance company under a policy issued to him in West Virginia, which provided liability coverage up to $20,000.  Following the accident, the plaintiff filed a personal injury suit against the driver.  The defendant offered to settle the suit for the coverage limits of the driver’s policy.  The plaintiff refused the settlement offer, asserting that because the accident occurred in Maryland, the other driver should have been covered for up to $30,000 for bodily injury liability.

The plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment from the court to establish that $30,000 of liability coverage was available to her under the other driver’s insurance policy.  The defendant ultimately offered her $30,000 to settle the case, which she accepted.  The plaintiff then filed a motion for attorneys’ fees and costs based upon the declaratory judgment action she had pursued against the defendant.  When the court denied the request, the plaintiff appealed.

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Some personal injury actions are complicated due to the involvement of multiple defendants and competing theories of liability.  In an April 3, 2019 Maryland car accident case, the Court of Special Appeals reviewed a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff, which resulted in a judgment against the two defendants.

The plaintiff in the case was injured in a three-car accident.  The first defendant owned the vehicle that caused a chain reaction collision.  On the night of the accident, the first defendant was socializing at a restaurant bar with a man she had met that night.  Believing that she was too intoxicated to drive, she allowed the man to drive her vehicle because she had not seen him consume any drinks.  During the drive, the man began driving erratically and at an excessive rate of speed.  While being pursued by police, the first defendant’s vehicle struck the median past a traffic intersection and became airborne, traveling over three other cars before crashing into the side of the street.

The plaintiff alleged that, after the first defendant’s vehicle came to a stop, the second defendant’s vehicle suddenly accelerated through the intersection, hit the median, and struck the front driver’s side of her vehicle.  Throughout the case, the second defendant maintained that he was rendered unconscious as a result of being hit by the first defendant’s vehicle, and that his incapacitation led him to strike the plaintiff’s vehicle.  The plaintiff testified that she could not determine whether the second defendant was unconscious as his vehicle approached hers, nor could she recall how much time had passed after the first defendant crashed and when the second defendant’s vehicle struck her car.

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In a Maryland medical malpractice case, the jury instructions are generally important for members of the jury to understand and apply the law to the evidence presented at trial. Sometimes, the instructions provided to the jury may be grounds for appeal.  In January 25, 2019 opinion, the Court of Appeals of Maryland considered whether it was improper for the trial court to give instructions on both the standard of care for general negligence and the higher standard of care for a physician in a medical malpractice case.

The plaintiff in the case had sought medical treatment from the defendant after he experienced numbness in his fingers and intermittent neck and shoulder pain.  The defendant recommended surgery to remove damaged discs from the plaintiff’s spine and fused vertebrae in his neck.  After the defendant had performed the surgery, the plaintiff developed an infection at the location of the operation.  The plaintiff was hospitalized as a result of the infection, and remained hampered by a severely limited range of motion.

The plaintiff sued the defendant for medical negligence and failure to obtain informed consent.  At trial, the court gave the jury a general instruction on negligence using the reasonable person standard, i.e., that negligence is failing to use the caution, attention, or skill of a reasonable person would use under similar circumstances.  The court also gave an instruction that specifically addressed the negligence of a health care provider, which read: a health care provider is negligent if he does not use that degree of care and skill which a reasonably competent health care provider engaged in a similar practice and acting in similar circumstances would use.  The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff on the first count for medical negligence.

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Accidents involving power tools or other dangerous equipment may result in serious and life-altering injuries.  In a February 19, 2019 case, the plaintiff brought a Maryland negligence claim against the defendant after suffering an injury that ended his career as a surgeon.  Following an eight-day trial, the jury found that the defendant was not negligent.  The plaintiff appealed to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

The plaintiff and defendant were both orthopedic surgeons at the same hospital.  The accident occurred during a bilateral knee replacement surgery, in which the plaintiff was operating on the patient’s left knee, while the defendant simultaneously operated on the patient’s right knee.  During the procedure, a surgical technician handed the defendant a loaded pin driver in order to place a pin into the patient’s bone.  As the defendant brought the pin driver forward, it made contact with the plaintiff’s left elbow.

Shortly after the incident, the plaintiff felt weakness and a loss of sensation in his left arm and hand along with poor coordination and restricted movement.  Thereafter, the plaintiff learned that his nerve was permanently damaged and could not be repaired with surgery.  The hospital considered the plaintiff disabled and terminated his contract.

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Personal injuries may arise out of many diverse situations, including the workplace.  In some cases, if someone caused an injury while on the job, their employer may be held liable for negligent hiring and supervision.  In a February 21, 2019 case, three students brought a Maryland negligence claim against the school board based on the conduct of one of its employees.  The students’ claims against the school board were dismissed by the circuit court, but they ultimately prevailed on their claims against the employee.

The case arose out of an incident between the students and a school police officer.  The students alleged that, for no apparent reason, the officer had physically assaulted them with her hands, pepper spray, and her baton.  The officer later pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree assault.  The students filed lawsuits against the officer for assault and against the school board for negligent hiring, retention, supervision, and credentialing.

The circuit court dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims against the school board with prejudice, following a summary judgment motion.  The matter proceeded to trial on their claims against the officer.  The jury ultimately found that the officer had violated the constitutional rights of the students and awarded them damages totaling $280,000.  The plaintiffs subsequently asked the school board to satisfy the judgments.  When the school board refused, the students filed a motion with the circuit court, arguing that the board must indemnify the officer because the acts were committed within the scope of her employment.  The court granted the motion, and the school board appealed.

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Under Maryland premises liability law, a landlord may be held responsible if its negligence caused a personal injury to a tenant.  In a March 1, 2019 case, the plaintiff filed a Maryland negligence claim against his landlord after he was assaulted on the premises.  A lower court held that under the circumstances alleged by the plaintiff, the defendant did not have a duty to protect the plaintiff from criminal activity.  The plaintiff appealed the ruling to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

The plaintiff in the case paid the defendant a monthly free to park his ice cream truck on its premises.  After parking his truck one night, the plaintiff was robbed and shot multiple times by two armed assailants.  The plaintiff argued that, due to a prior robbery that had occurred in the parking lot several years ago, the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty to protect him from the foreseeable risk of harm of the robbery.

In Maryland, a negligence claim requires four elements:  (1) the defendant was under a duty to protect the plaintiff from injury, (2) the defendant breached that duty, (3) the plaintiff suffered an injury, and (4) the injury was caused by the defendant’s breach of duty.

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In some Maryland personal injury cases, the plaintiffs may have multiple, alternative theories of negligence that could establish the defendant’s liability.  The case cannot be dismissed before trial unless the defendant shows that the plaintiffs could not prevail on any of their theories.  In a February 26, 2019 case before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, the plaintiffs argued that their alternative theory of negligence had not been addressed by the circuit court when it dismissed their case against the defendants.

The plaintiffs in the case had attended a celebration held by the Baltimore Ravens and the City of Baltimore for their Super Bowl victory in 2013.  A victory parade was planned from City Hall to the stadium, where fans were invited to a free event following the parade.  On the day of the event, the stadium had reached capacity before the parade even started.  The stadium gates were ordered closed by the fire marshal, but remained unlocked in case of an emergency.  The plaintiffs were standing outside the stadium when someone announced that the gate near them was open.  A crowd then surged toward the gate, knocking over and trampling the plaintiffs, injuring them both.

The plaintiffs filed a negligence action against the Ravens, the stadium owners, and the crowd-control contractor.  The plaintiffs asserted two alternative theories of negligence.  One, that the defendants failed to anticipate the reasonably foreseeable, large crowd they had invited to the stadium, and then failed to take reasonable safety precautions to control the crowd, which created a hazardous condition.  Second, after the unprecedented public crowd had arrived, the defendants failed to warn of the danger, or to make a reasonable effort to eliminate the danger.  The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, finding that the defendants did not have notice of any dangerous conditions at the stadium.

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In many situations, the victims of negligence may recover their damages by filing a Maryland legal claim against those responsible.  One of the few exceptions concerns governmental immunity.  In a February 22, 2019 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals examined whether a local county could be sued under the circumstances presented in a Maryland wrongful death case.

In the summer of 2016, a 911 call center experienced a service outage in the county that lasted approximately one hour and forty-five minutes.  During the outage, the decedent suffered a medical emergency.  The plaintiffs alleged that they and other friends and family had called 911 repeatedly, for over an hour, but were unable to get through.  Eventually they were connected with emergency services and rescue personal subsequently responded to the scene.  Tragically, the decedent could not be revived, and he passed away.

In their suit, the plaintiffs claimed that the county was negligent in maintaining the air conditioning unit that had failed and caused the 911 service outage, which in turn, allegedly caused the decedent’s death.  The circuit court dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims, ruling that the county was immune from suit and that the county officials, named as individual defendants, did not owe a duty to the plaintiffs or the decedent.  The plaintiffs appealed the decision to the higher court.

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In some in Maryland car accident cases, the evidence presented to a jury may have a significant impact on the outcome of the trial.  In a February 12, 2019 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered whether evidence of prior auto accident injuries was irrelevant or prejudicial to a plaintiff seeking underinsured motorist benefits from his auto insurance company.

The plaintiff in the case was rear-ended at low speed while his vehicle was stopped at a red light.  Later that day, the plaintiff sought medical treatment for pain in his neck, back, knees, hips, elbows, and for nausea and headaches.  He underwent an MRI, which revealed preexisting, degenerative changes to his neck and back.  Over the next several years, the plaintiff intermittently received medical treatment for the pain.

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit for underinsured motorist benefits against his insurer, as the policy limits of the at-fault motorist did not cover all of his damages.  Before trial, the plaintiff filed a motion to prevent the jury from learning about his other claims and injuries in six previous car accidents, as well as the one that occurred after the accident at issue in the case.  The trial court, however, allowed the defendant to introduce evidence of the accidents that had caused injuries to the same parts of the plaintiff’s body as the crash at issue.  The jury ultimately awarded the plaintiff over $28,000, but it only covered a fraction of his medical expenses.  As such, the plaintiff sought review from the appeals court, seeking the full amount of his damages.

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The Maryland Health Care Malpractice Claims Statute may apply to claims alleging negligent dental care as well as medical care.  In a February 8, 2019 Maryland medical malpractice action, the plaintiff sued her oral surgeon for dental malpractice and lack of consent.  The case went to trial before a jury.  At the close of the plaintiff’s case, the court granted the defendant’s motion for judgment, which prevented the issues from going to the jury.  The plaintiff ultimately succeeded on appeal in having the judgment reversed on her malpractice claim.

The defendant in the case removed the plaintiff’s wisdom teeth.  After the surgery, the plaintiff noticed that she could no longer taste food on the left side of her tongue and had lost sensation in that area.  She was evaluated by a neurologist, who diagnosed her with a serious injury to her left lingual nerve.  The plaintiff subsequently filed a lawsuit against the defendant.

At trial, the plaintiff’s expert witness testified that nerve damage such as hers may be caused by sectioning the tooth, a procedure that requires cutting a small bone between the roots of the tooth.  He explained that if the surgeon cuts too deep, he may hit a lingual nerve.  The plaintiff’s dental records, however, did not state whether or not the defendant sectioned her tooth.  The defendant then testified that he may or may not have sectioned the tooth.  The trial court later granted a judgment for the defendant on the malpractice claim, reasoning that the plaintiff’s expert did not specifically provide an opinion as to how the nerve was injured.

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