To succeed in a Maryland negligence claim, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant failed to use reasonable care.  The standard of care required often depends on the circumstances of the case.  In a Maryland car accident case, for example, a driver is expected to exercise reasonable care for the safety of others.  A November 14, 2017 case before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland illustrates how the standard of care may vary when a person driving on icy roads is faced with a sudden emergency.icy road

In the case, the plaintiff was driving her family minivan at night on an wet and icy road.  The defendant drove an armored truck behind her at a distance of approximately two vehicle lengths.  When the plaintiff suddenly stopped her van, the defendant immediately applied his brakes but slid on the road.  In an attempt to avoid hitting the plaintiff’s van, the defendant swerved to the right and moved his truck onto an elevated grassy area beside the road.  Although the defendant avoided a direct collision, his truck clipped the rear bumper of the plaintiff’s van.  The plaintiff subsequently filed a negligence claim against the defendant.

After trial, the jury was instructed to measure the reasonableness of the defendant’s actions compared to those of other drivers facing the same sudden and real emergency.  The jury returned a verdict finding that the defendant was not negligent.  The plaintiff appealed the verdict, arguing that the trial court erred in providing the jury instruction for acts in emergencies.  In particular, the plaintiff contended that it was not sufficiently supported by the evidence.

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The requirements for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit can be complicated, but a Maryland medical malpractice attorney can help clients avoid dismissal on procedural grounds.  A November 6, 2017 case before the Court of Special Appeals illustrates some of the problems caused by failing to comply with the conditions precedent to the filing of a medical malpractice complaint.conference room

The plaintiff in the case filed a lawsuit against his doctor without legal counsel, alleging that the doctor misdiagnosed his cardiovascular disease as acid reflux.  The defendant waived arbitration, and the matter was transferred to the circuit court.  The defendant moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint for failing to file a certificate of a qualified expert within 90 days of filing his claim, and failing to file his complaint in the circuit court within 60 days of the defendant’s election to waive arbitration and transfer.  The circuit court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss, and the plaintiff appealed.

The Health Care Malpractice Claims Act provides the procedures for all lawsuits by a person against a health care provider for a medical injury with damages in excess of the jurisdictional limit.  The Act creates a mandatory arbitration system for all medical malpractice claims.  Before bringing a civil action in court, therefore, a plaintiff must first file a claim with the Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office, and they must file a certificate and report of a qualified expert within 90 days.

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Proving that a negligent driver caused a plaintiff’s injuries can be difficult in some car accident cases, as illustrated in a September 26, 2017 case before the Court of Special Appeals.  It can help, however, to hire a dedicated Maryland car accident attorney to ensure that the facts are presented persuasively to a jury.  The plaintiff in the case brought a negligence claim against the driver who rear-ended her vehicle as they were both merging onto a traffic circle.  After a jury found the defendant was not negligent, the plaintiff appealed.intersection

At the time of the accident, the defendant was driving behind the plaintiff in the same direction as they approached a traffic circle in the middle of three lanes.  The plaintiff stopped her vehicle, as did the defendant.  The defendant testified that she saw the plaintiff started to accelerate, which prompted her to accelerate into the circle.  The defendant checked her blind spot to check traffic, and in that brief interval, their vehicles collided.  The plaintiff, however, testified that she had been at a complete stop for some time when the defendant rear-ended her.

In Maryland, every driver must exercise the degree of care that a person of ordinary prudence would exercise under similar circumstances.  In a rear-end collision, the question of whether the following driver neglected to use care is ordinarily for the jury to decide.  Only in exceptional cases, in which it is clear that reasonable minds would not differ with regard to the facts, will the court disturb a jury verdict on the question of negligence.  The question on appeal, therefore, is whether there was sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude that the defendant was not negligent.

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Serious medical conditions can result from exposure to lead, as demonstrated in a recent Maryland lead paint action.  In the November 1, 2017 case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a jury verdict finding a property manager liable for damages to the plaintiff.  The plaintiff, who had resided in a property with lead paint, brought a negligence claim against the property manager, alleging that he suffered cognitive injuries caused by lead exposure.  After a trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff.  The defendant subsequently appealed the judgment.paint cans

The plaintiff in the case had been exposed to lead paint at a property managed, maintained, operated, and controlled by the defendant.  At trial, the parties stipulated that, due to the defendant’s negligence, the plaintiff was exposed to deteriorating paint, which substantially contributed to two documented elevated blood lead levels.  The only remaining questions for the jury, therefore, were whether the lead exposure caused an injury to the plaintiff, and if so, which, if any, damages were incurred.  The jury ruled in favor of the plaintiff and awarded approximately 1.2 million dollars in damages.

On appeal, the defendant contended that the plaintiff failed to produce sufficient evidence that his lead exposure caused any injury.  Although the plaintiff’s expert witness testified that the plaintiff suffered cognitive deficits and a four-point loss in IQ as a result of childhood exposure to lead, the defendant argued that this conclusion was not based on any evidence that lead exposure can cause such deficits.

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Pedestrians can suffer serious and life-long injuries in Maryland car accidents, even when traveling at a low speed. In an October 3, 2017 case, a plaintiff was struck by a car as she walked from the parking lot toward the entrance of a grocery store, resulting in a broken knee. On the night of the accident, it was dark and rainy, and the plaintiff was wearing black clothes and carrying a black umbrella. She walked toward the crosswalk after looking both ways, and she was then struck by a car. The plaintiff subsequently brought a Maryland negligence claim against the driver of the vehicle.crosswalk

The case went to trial, and although the jury found both parties negligent, it also found that the defendant had the last clear chance to avoid the injury and awarded the plaintiff damages for her medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. The defendant moved the court to enter a judgment in favor of him, notwithstanding the jury verdict. The trial court granted the motion, finding the evidence on the issue of last clear chance was insufficient, and the plaintiff appealed to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the trial court erred in granting a judgment for the defendant because the evidence was sufficient to find that the defendant had failed to avail himself of the last clear chance to avoid the collision, and secondly, the contributory negligence instruction was erroneous and prejudicial. The court first explained that the doctrine of last clear chance generally requires a sequential, fresh opportunity for the defendant to avoid the plaintiff’s injury. While the court admitted it strained to find evidence of such a fresh opportunity, it did not definitively answer the question, choosing instead to focus on the dispositive issue of contributory negligence.

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Slip and fall claims often involve nuanced issues, and plaintiffs may benefit from the representation of an experienced Maryland premises liability attorney in such cases.  In an October 11, 2017 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals reviewed a Maryland negligence claim brought by the plaintiff against her condominium association after she slipped and fell on ice in the parking lot of the building.  The defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff had assumed the risk of injury by walking on obviously visible ice next to her car.  After the trial court granted the defendants’ motion, the plaintiff appealed to the higher court.snowy cars

In February 2014, a series of snowstorms covered the area with 18 inches of snow and sleet.  After the storms subsided, the parking lot of the plaintiff’s condominium building was plowed.  However, a foot of snow had been pushed behind the plaintiff’s vehicle.  The plaintiff emailed the defendants about the problem, but two days later, the snow remained piled around her vehicle.  The plaintiff paid a neighbor to dig out her car so that she could drive to the store.  When he finished, the plaintiff approached the driver side door of her vehicle, slipped, and fell.  The plaintiff fractured her forearm in the fall and underwent two surgeries as a result.

In Maryland, “assumption of the risk” is an affirmative defense that completely bars a plaintiff’s recovery.  The defense is grounded on the theory that a plaintiff who voluntarily consents, either expressly or impliedly, to exposure to a known risk cannot later sue for damages incurred from exposure to that risk.  To establish the defense, a defendant must prove that the plaintiff had knowledge of the risk of the danger, the plaintiff appreciated that risk, and the plaintiff voluntarily confronted the risk of danger.  Maryland courts assess whether a plaintiff had knowledge and appreciation of the risk using an objective standard.  Accordingly, when it is clear that a person of normal intelligence in the position of the plaintiff must have understood the danger, the issue is for the court to decide.

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Maryland law holds every person responsible for their negligent actions, which may lead to harsh results for those who have been injured in Maryland car accidents.  In an October 5, 2017 case, the Court of Special Appeals reviewed an injury claim arising out of a head-on motor vehicle accident.  The plaintiff in the case was driving southbound when the defendant attempted to make a left turn.  The defendant’s vehicle struck the plaintiff’s vehicle on the driver’s side, causing it to flip.  The plaintiff suffered significant injuries in the accident, including two broken legs.  He brought suit against the driver of the other vehicle, alleging negligence.intersection

At trial, the primary issue for the jury was whether the plaintiff’s speed contributed to the accident.  The speed limit on the road was 40 miles per hour.  The plaintiff testified that he believed he was driving 45 miles per hour, but he admitted that he typically drove with the flow of traffic and that he was not paying attention to his speedometer.

The defendant contended that the plaintiff’s actual speed was much higher and supported his argument with an accident reconstruction engineer.  The expert presented a series of calculations that indicated the plaintiff was likely traveling at a rate of at least 60 miles per hour.  The expert explained that if the plaintiff had been traveling at the speed limit, the defendant would have cleared the intersection before the plaintiff reached the point of collision.  The jury ultimately returned a verdict finding that the defendant was negligent but also finding that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent and was therefore barred from recovery.

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Insurance companies who deny coverage to their insureds after a Maryland car accident can be held liable in court. In a September 26, 2017 opinion, the Court of Appeals of Maryland reviewed a jury verdict that awarded an $8,000 judgment to the plaintiff in his action against his insurance company. The plaintiff brought an appeal for the rest of the amount he claimed for his non-economic damages.stop sign

The plaintiff in the case alleged that he was injured in an automobile accident when another motorist negligently collided with the side of his vehicle at a stop sign intersection. The driver of the other vehicle and his passenger jumped out of the vehicle and ran from the scene of the accident. The police could not determine the identity of the other driver because the vehicle had been stolen prior to the accident. Nor could the owner of that vehicle be liable for damages.

After the accident, the plaintiff received medical treatment from a chiropractor. He then filed a claim with his insurance company, seeking uninsured motorist benefits under his policy. The uninsured motorist benefits provision allowed him coverage in the event that he was in an accident with someone who didn’t have insurance. The insurance company admitted it was responsible for the claim but disputed the amount owed to the plaintiff. The case went to trial, where the issue for the jury, therefore, was the amount of damages that the plaintiff was entitled to receive.

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Following a Maryland car accident, the passenger of the vehicle that was rear-ended sued the other driver for negligence. The case went to trial. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, awarding her damages for all of her past medical bills and $650 for pain and suffering. The plaintiff appealed the judgment amount for non-economic damages, arguing that she was prejudiced by the admission of her medical records into evidence. The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland published its decision in a June 28, 2017 opinion.traffic

On the day of the accident, the plaintiff was sitting in the rear passenger seat of a small SUV, while her son was driving. As they came to a complete stop in heavy traffic on the exit ramp, the SUV was rear-ended by a vehicle being driven by the defendant. Although police and ambulances were called to the scene, the plaintiff did not seek medical treatment. On the next morning, she went to the emergency room with low back pain and was released the same day. A week after the accident, the plaintiff sought treatment from a chiropractor. Three years later, she underwent shoulder surgery for a torn rotator cuff, which her doctor testified was caused by the accident. A doctor for the defendant examined the plaintiff pursuant to the litigation and reviewed her medical records. Based on the physical examination and records, the doctor testified that the plaintiff did not sustain her shoulder injury in the accident. The plaintiff’s medical records were admitted into evidence.

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the trial court erred by admitting the medical records into evidence and that she was prejudiced by their admission. The records at issue were admitted under an evidentiary rule concerning the bases of opinion testimony by experts. The rule provides that facts or data upon which the expert relies may be disclosed to the jury if they are determined to be trustworthy and necessary to illuminate the testimony. The court explained that there is no significant difference between disclosure and admission of a writing under the rule. Therefore, if it satisfies this rule, the court has discretion to allow otherwise inadmissible evidence in order to explain the factual basis for an expert’s opinion. Upon request, the court must instruct the jury that the facts or data may only be used to explain how the expert reached an opinion.

Bicyclists are particularly vulnerable to injuries arising out of motor vehicle collisions, many of which are caused by negligence.  In a July 11, 2017 case, the Court of Special Appeals reviewed a personal injury claim filed by a bicyclist against a driver following a Maryland car accident.  The plaintiff was employed as a delivery person by a sandwich chain and was in the process of making a delivery via bicycle when he collided with a van driven by the defendant.  As a result of the collision, the plaintiff suffered injuries to his head, neck, and knee.  The plaintiff alleged that the defendant’s negligence caused his injuries.bike

In the case, the defendant had slowed her van to turn left into a parking spot across the street.  The plaintiff hit the back left window of her van while on his bike, shattering the glass.  The plaintiff was not wearing a helmet when the accident occurred.  After a trial, the jury returned a verdict finding that both parties had been negligent.  The plaintiff appealed the verdict, arguing that the trial court erred by admitting evidence that he was not wearing a helmet and by allowing the issue of contributory negligence to go to the jury.

On appeal, the plaintiff contended that the question of whether he was wearing a helmet was irrelevant and therefore inadmissible, since Maryland law did not require him to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle.  The appeals court agreed that Maryland law did not legally require the plaintiff to wear a helmet.  However, the court went on to find that this fact alone did not compel the conclusion that the question of whether the plaintiff was wearing a helmet was completely irrelevant.  Furthermore, the court explained that even if the question was irrelevant, at most, the trial judge’s ruling on the issue was a harmless error and would not have affected the jury’s decision.

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