The law holds people and businesses responsible for injuries caused by their negligent conduct.  In a July 19, 2017 case, the Court of Special Appeals considered a Maryland injury claim brought on appeal by a plaintiff against a bus transportation business.  The plaintiff filed the appeal after a jury found in favor of the defendant.wheelchair

The victim in the case was a double amputee who required the use of a wheelchair for mobility.   The victim had hired the defendant’s bus transportation company to transport him to his home.  As the driver attempted to load the victim into the transport bus, his wheelchair rolled backwards and fell off the bus’ lift.  The fall sent the victim crashing to the ground and broke his neck.  The victim spent the next few months in the hospital before passing away from his injuries.  The victim’s estate filed suit against the driver and the bus transportation company, alleging negligence.  After a trial, the jury found that the victim’s injuries were not results of the driver’s negligence.

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the trial court erred by striking the testimony of the plaintiff’s expert.  In Maryland, before allowing expert testimony, a trial court must make the following determinations:  (1) whether the witness is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, (2) whether the expert testimony is appropriate on the particular subject, and (3) whether a sufficient factual basis exists to support the expert testimony.  With respect to the third element, an expert’s opinion testimony must be based on an adequate factual basis so that it does not amount to conjecture, speculation, or incompetent evidence.  They cannot simply hazard guesses, however educated, based on their credentials.

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The timing of a Maryland medical malpractice case is important.  If filed too late, the defendants may invoke the statute of limitations to prevent the action from proceeding.  In a July 20, 2017 case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland decided whether the lower court correctly dismissed the plaintiff’s case as barred by the statute of limitations. stethoscope

The defendant had performed hip-replacement surgeries on the plaintiff in 2005 and 2010.  Although the plaintiff experienced significantly worse pain after the 2010 procedure, the defendant never informed her that her symptoms were anything other than normal results of a successful surgery.  The plaintiff consulted another orthopedic surgeon on December 6, 2010, who informed her that she would need a corrective surgery.  On January 7, 2011, the plaintiff opened a letter from her insurance company, advising that there had been a recall of certain prosthetic hip components, and it was likely that she had received one of the recalled components when the defendant performed her right hip replacement in April 2010.  The plaintiff filed her malpractice claims against the defendant on January 2, 2014.

In Maryland, the statute of limitations requires professional liability claims against health care providers to be filed within the earlier of:  (1) five years from the time the injury was inflicted; or (2) three years from the date the injury was discovered.  The key issue in the case was when the plaintiff became aware of facts that would have caused a reasonable patient to investigate a potential malpractice claim against the defendant.  That issue was complicated by the fact that, in the field of medicine, an unsuccessful result alone does not necessarily establish negligence on the part of the health care provider.  Instead, to establish a claim of medical injury, a plaintiff must prove not only a bad result but also a breach of the standard of care that was a proximate cause of the bad result.

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Accidents can happen anywhere, but when they are caused by a careless person or business, the victim may be able to pursue compensation through a negligence claim.  The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland decided a July 14, 2017 appeal involving a plaintiff who had been injured in a retail store.  The plaintiff in the case was shopping in the defendants’ department store when a cast iron griddle fell from a bottom shelf and landed on her right foot.  She brought negligence claims against the store owners, based on the legal theory of res ipsa loquitur.  Following trial, the jury found in favor of the plaintiff.  However, after the trial court entered a judgment notwithstanding the verdict in favor of the defendants, the plaintiff brought the current appeal.bottles

In a negligence action, the plaintiff must present evidence tending to show that the defendant was legally responsible for her injury, although direct proof of negligence is not required.  The plaintiff may instead invoke res ipsa to rely on an inference of negligence to be deduced from all of the circumstances.  In Maryland, this requires the plaintiff to establish that the accident was (1) of a kind that does not ordinarily occur without negligence on the part of the defendant, (2) caused by an instrumentality exclusively in the defendant’s control, and (3) not caused by an act or omission of the plaintiff.  If and when a plaintiff satisfies these three elements, res ipsa permits but does not compel the jury to infer a defendant’s negligence without the aid of any direct evidence.

On appeal, the court explained that, to satisfy the latter two elements of res ipsa, the plaintiff had the burden of proving that the falling griddle was more likely than not a result of the negligence of the defendants.  The plaintiff must also demonstrate that the combined likelihood that her own negligence or that of a third party caused the griddle to fall was less than 50%.  As a result, the court focused on whether there was evidence to demonstrate the defendants’ exclusive control of the griddle.

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In an opinion issued on July 6, 2017, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a personal injury claim arising out of an accident between an automobile and a pedestrian. The plaintiff was attempting to cross the street when she was struck by a vehicle driven by the defendant. The plaintiff brought a negligence claim against the defendant, which proceeded to trial. Ultimately, the jury found that the defendant was negligent, but it also found that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent, thereby precluding any recovery of damages. The plaintiff subsequently appealed to the higher court.

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Under the doctrine of contributory negligence, a plaintiff who fails to exercise ordinary care for his or her own safety and thus contributes proximately to his or her injury is barred from all recovery, regardless of the defendant’s primary negligence. Unfortunately for plaintiffs, it is an all-or-nothing doctrine in Maryland. As a result, if contributory negligence is found on the part of the plaintiff, it prevents the plaintiff from recovering any damages for his or her injuries, even if the defendant was also found negligent. The burden of proving contributory negligence is on the defendant, and the issue is a question of fact for the jury to resolve.

In the case, the defendant had stopped at a stop sign and started to make a left turn, when she struck the plaintiff in the middle of the crosswalk. The defendant testified that she didn’t see the plaintiff until the last moment, when she slammed on her brakes. Ordinarily, a pedestrian crossing a street within a designated crosswalk in Maryland has the right-of-way over oncoming traffic, and the driver of an approaching vehicle must come to a stop when approaching a pedestrian in a cross-walk. The pedestrian’s right-of-way, however, is not absolute, and in some circumstances, a pedestrian may be found to be contributorily negligent. In crossing a street, a pedestrian has a duty to look out for vehicles and protect herself from danger. Although there is no law that she must stop until a vehicle has passed, whether she was negligent in proceeding is a question for the jury.

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Faulty medical care can result in further injuries, expenses, and stress for the patient.  Some plaintiffs take legal action by filing a medical malpractice claim, as in a May 31, 2017 case decided by the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.  The plaintiff in the case brought a medical negligence action against a hospital, based solely on vicarious liability, alleging that her physician negligently performed a laparoscopic hysterectomy and caused an injury to her uterus.  The plaintiff won at trial, and the jury awarded her approximately $425,000 in damages.  The hospital filed an appeal.hospital

The primary issue for the appeals court to decide was whether the plaintiff could lawfully bring her negligence claim against the hospital based on the doctrine of respondeat superior after she had voluntarily dismissed her claim against the doctor with prejudice.  Respondeat superior is a legal doctrine that holds an employer vicariously liable for a tort committed by its employee while acting within the scope of his employment.  In Maryland, the plaintiff may sue an employer based on the wrongful conduct of its employee without suing the employee as well.  To establish the liability of the employer in such cases, the plaintiff need only prove that the employee committed the tort and did so while acting within the scope of his employment.

There are, however, two situations under Maryland law in which the settlement of a claim against the employee will preclude vicarious liability on the part of the employer:  (1) the exoneration of the employee; and (2) the plaintiff’s release of her claim against the employee.  On appeal, the hospital argued that the dismissal of the plaintiff’s claim against her doctor with prejudice constituted a release of liability against both the doctor and the hospital.  The issue is one that has not been decided uniformly across the country.

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The Court of Appeals of Maryland recently explained its position regarding evidence of superseding causes of injury by non-parties in a medical malpractice case decided on May 24, 2017.  The family of a deceased patient sued several doctors and hospitals that had treated the patient before his stroke.  Before trial, the plaintiffs had settled with or dismissed their claims against all of the defendants except one radiologist and his employer.  The plaintiffs alleged that the doctor was negligent when interpreting the patient’s radiological images, leading to the patient’s fatal stroke six days later.  After the trial, the jury found in favor of the defendants, and the plaintiffs appealed.operating room

The key question for the Court of Appeals was whether the defendant could present evidence of negligence on the part of non-party doctors who had subsequently treated the patient as intervening and superseding causes of harm to the patient.  The plaintiffs argued that evidence of the non-parties’ negligence was irrelevant and immaterial to the issue of whether the defendant violated the standard of care in his treatment of the patient, and the evidence tended to mislead the jurors into believing the non-parties who had settled were the responsible parties, rather than the defendant.  The plaintiffs also contended that the trial court improperly applied the doctrine of intervening and superseding causes in the context of a medical negligence action involving acts of multiple concurrent tortfeasors.

The four elements required for a negligence action are duty, breach, causation, and damages.  Causation-in-fact may be found if it is more likely than not that the defendant’s conduct was a substantial factor in producing the plaintiff’s injuries.  However, the issue of superseding causation is not even relevant unless the antecedent negligence of a third person is a substantial factor in bringing about the injury and could not have been anticipated by the defendant.

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In many personal injury cases, the plaintiffs seek compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, and other losses caused by the careless acts of another person or business.  In an important decision issued on May 31, 2017, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a jury verdict that found in favor of the plaintiffs on their negligence claim against the general contractor that built their home.  The plaintiff in the case was injured after a safety guardrail in his home failed, causing him to fall 12 to 13 feet onto the concrete below.wheelchair

After a trial, the jury awarded the plaintiffs $1,306,700 in damages, which was reduced by the statutory cap on noneconomic damages.  The defendant subsequently appealed the verdict.  On appeal, one of the defendant’s primary arguments was that it owed no duty to the plaintiffs to ensure the proper construction of the guardrail because the responsibility for its construction had been delegated to its sub-contractor.

In general, Maryland follows the rule that the employer of an independent contractor is not liable for physical harm caused to another party by an act or omission of the contractor or its employees.  However, there are many exceptions to this rule, most of which fall into three categories:  (1) negligence of the employer in selecting or supervising the contractor; (2) non-delegable duties of the employer; and (3) inherently dangerous work.

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Individuals who have been hurt while in the care or on the property of another person or business may be able to pursue compensation from negligent parties in a personal injury claim. A plaintiff in a recent case filed a negligence claim after she was injured while being loaded onto a Maryland Transportation Authority bus. She appealed the jury verdict, which found in favor of the defendant, and the case was reviewed by the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland in a May 10, 2017 opinion.

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The defendant in the case was the employer of a Maryland Transportation Authority bus driver. The bus driver had assisted the plaintiff, who was in a wheelchair, in boarding the bus. After raising the steel lift to a height that would allow the plaintiff to move into the bus, the driver entered the bus to assist her from the inside. However, as the driver boarded the bus, the wheelchair tipped backwards, and the plaintiff fell on her back. The plaintiff claimed the driver’s employer was vicariously liable for the negligence of its employee.

The plaintiff had argued that the driver violated the defendant’s safety procedures and policies, which provided that operators are not permitted to leave passengers unattended on lifts in the upward position on inclines or ramps. The defendant contended that the driver did not actually leave her but attempted to follow the proper procedure by getting on the bus to pull the plaintiff’s wheelchair into the bus from the lift. At trial, both the driver and his supervisor testified that the driver’s actions complied with all of the defendant’s safety protocols and procedures. After the jury found that the driver was not negligent, the plaintiff moved for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, which was denied by the trial court.

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In many cases, the law allows for family members to pursue compensation for the death or injury of their loved one by bringing an action against those responsible.  The Court of Appeals of Maryland recently examined a wrongful death action in an opinion issued on May 22, 2017.  The plaintiffs in the case were the mother and the minor son of the decedent.farm

In 2009, the victim in the case had been shot and killed by the defendant, while he was working as the defendant’s farmhand.  The plaintiffs alleged that the defendant buried the victim’s remains in order to conceal his wrongdoing.  In 2015, the plaintiffs filed their complaint against the defendant.  After the circuit court dismissed their claims as time-barred, the plaintiffs appealed.

A wrongful death action is brought for the benefit of the surviving family members to compensate for the losses occasioned by their family member’s death.  Maryland law provides that the time period for bringing a wrongful death action that accrues on behalf of a minor plaintiff is tolled during the period of minority.  On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that the wrongful death action of the victim’s son was tolled during his period of minority, pursuant to this rule.  The court agreed, holding that the plain language of the rule provided for the tolling of a wrongful death claim until the age of majority, from which time the wrongful death action must be filed within three years.

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Family members may have legal recourse against someone who negligently caused their loved one’s serious injury or death.  In a May 2, 2017 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff in a medical malpractice and wrongful death action.  After her son committed suicide, the plaintiff filed suit against his doctor and the hospital, alleging that they had negligently discharged her son from involuntary inpatient psychiatric treatment and caused his death by suicide.skull

Following the trial, a jury awarded the plaintiff $6,112 in economic damages and $2,300,000 in non-economic damages, which were capped at $695,000, the statutory limit on non-economic damages imposed by Maryland law.  Despite the jury’s verdict, however, the trial court entered a judgment notwithstanding the verdict in favor of the defendants.  The plaintiff appealed.

In order to prevail on a claim of medical malpractice in Maryland, a plaintiff must prove the applicable standard of care, that the standard of care was violated by the defendant, and that the violation proximately caused the injury for which damages are sought.  The duty of care in a medical malpractice action is to exercise the degree of care or skill expected of a reasonably competent health care provider in the same or similar circumstances.  Generally, the nature and scope of the duty owed and whether the standard of care was breached is proven by expert testimony.

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