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.
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.