With the state’s abundance of older buildings and housing structures, many Maryland residents have suffered from exposure to lead-based paint. Some Maryland lead paint victims have pursued a negligence claim against their landlords and property owners to recover compensation for their injuries. A December 18, 2017 decision by the Court of Appeals of Maryland is relevant to consider when bringing a claim arising out of lead exposure, particularly against out-of-state insurance companies and property owners.peeling paint

The matter was brought before the Maryland court by the U.S. District Court, before which was pending a lead paint case. The District Court sought an answer to the question of whether the pollution exclusion contained in the defendant’s Georgia insurance policy, which excluded coverage for bodily injuries resulting from the ingestion of lead-based paint, violated Maryland public policy.

The plaintiffs in the case had been exposed to lead-based paint at a property owned by the defendant in Maryland. The plaintiffs brought suit against the defendant and the defendant’s insurance company, claiming that the insurance company was obligated to indemnify the defendant. The insurance company contended that it was under no such obligation, since the defendant’s general liability insurance policy, which was purchased in Georgia, did not cover injuries resulting from pollutants such as lead-based paint. The plaintiffs argued that the exclusion, although valid under Georgia law, was against Maryland’s public policy and could not be enforced in the state.

Continue reading

Insurance coverage can be crucial if substantial damages are awarded in a personal injury claim. In some instances, the plaintiff must undergo another court battle against the defendant’s insurance company to obtain a judgment. Guidance from an experienced Maryland premises liability attorney is particularly beneficial in cases involving insurance firms, as demonstrated in a July 27, 2017 case.gun

The plaintiff in the case had visited a pub to watch a basketball game. As he was opening the door to exit the pub, he was struck by a bullet. The shooter was neither apprehended nor identified. The pub and the plaintiff reached a consent judgment agreement, in which the pub admitted negligence and agreed to a settlement of $100,000 for medical expenses and noneconomic damages. Thereafter, the plaintiff made a demand on the pub’s insurance company for payment of the settlement, which was denied. The plaintiff then filed an action for breach of contract against the insurance company. The trial court ruled in favor of the plaintiff and awarded damages in the amount of $100,000. The insurance company appealed the decision to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

The policy at issue contained an provision that excluded coverage for bodily injuries arising out of assault and battery. The primary issue for the court, therefore, was whether or not the shooting incident constituted a battery under the policy exclusion. The appeals court noted that there was no evidence regarding the identity of the shooter or whether the shooting was intentional or accidental. The absence of such evidence also raised the question of whether the intent of the shooter must be established to distinguish the injury from one that arises out of an accident. The court answered the question affirmatively, explaining that if evidence of intent was not necessary, virtually all bodily injuries caused by another person would be barred under the policy exclusion, including accidental injuries.

Continue reading

Failing to follow procedural rules and deadlines set in a court case can result in serious consequences, including dismissal.  In a November 9, 2017 Maryland lead paint case before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, the plaintiff sought to reverse a summary judgment entered by the trial court on her negligence claim, stemming from a missed discovery deadline.house-1-1225482-639x478-300x225

In the case, the plaintiff alleged that she had been poisoned by lead-based paint while living in a property owned and managed by the defendants.  The plaintiff had identified an expert witness to testify regarding his opinion that the defendant’s property contained lead-based paint and that the plaintiff’s exposure to that lead-based paint caused her injuries.  The plaintiff had also obtained a report from an environmental testing company that found lead in the defendant’s property, but the report wasn’t completed and produced until 14 days after the discovery period closed.

The defendants moved to strike the report from evidence as untimely, and to strike the expert’s testimony on the ground that he lacked a sufficient factual basis for his opinion, i.e., the report.  The trial court granted the motions to strike.  The defendants then moved for summary judgment, based on the lack of expert testimony.  The trial court granted the motion, denying the plaintiff any recovery for her injuries.  The plaintiff then brought an appeal.

Continue reading

If a negligent driver doesn’t have adequate insurance to fully compensate you for the loss you suffered in an accident, you may have to seek uninsured or underinsured coverage from your own insurance company. You can avoid some frustration by hiring an experienced Maryland car accident attorney to advance your claim and pursue damages in court upon a denial, as the plaintiffs did in a November 3, 2017 case before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland. After their insurance company denied coverage for the wrongful death of their son, the plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against them in court.road work

The victim in the case was killed on the job by a motorist as he was directing traffic in a construction zone. The company for which the victim worked was insured by the defendant. The surviving family members sought to collect underinsured motor vehicle benefits from the defendant, after the motorist’s insurance coverage of $100,000 had been paid out and was exhausted. The defendant denied the claim, alleging that the employer’s policy with the defendant did not provide uninsured or underinsured coverage for its employees or their survivors.

Generally, Maryland courts will first look at the insurance policy contract to determine the rights and obligations of the parties, interpreting the plain meaning of the language.  Only when the language is ambiguous may the court consider evidence outside the context of the contract.

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading