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Postal workers typically operate vehicles owned by the United States Post Office (USPS) when they are working. As such, if a postal worker causes a collision during the process of delivering the mail, the federal government may be deemed liable for any losses caused by the crash. While the Federal Tort Claims Act (the Act) permits people to pursue claims against the federal government in certain situations, they must comply with the applicable procedural rules, otherwise, their claims may be dismissed.  Recently, a Maryland court discussed the administrative remedies a plaintiff must exhaust before seeking damages from the federal government, in a case arising out of a car accident. If you were involved in a collision with a federal employee, it is in your best interest to meet with a Maryland car accident attorney as soon as possible to protect your right to seek compensation.

The Factual and Procedural History of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff was driving his car on a Maryland highway when he collided with a postal vehicle that made an unsafe left turn in front of him. Three days after the accident, he had a telephone call with a USPS specialist who confirmed that the accident occurred and that the postal worker was at fault.

Allegedly, the plaintiff then retained an attorney who sent a demand letter and an SF-95 form to the USPS. Notably, neither the letter nor the form indicated the amount of damages the plaintiff sought. The plaintiff subsequently filed a federal lawsuit against the USPS, asserting a negligence claim. The USPS moved, inter alia, to dismiss the complaint due to the plaintiff’s failure to exhaust his administrative remedies. Continue Reading ›

People hurt in car accidents will often seek damages from the parties they deem responsible for their losses. Some people may be reluctant to hire an attorney, though, and for a variety of reasons, will proceed with their claims pro se. As demonstrated in a recent ruling issued by a Maryland court in a case arising out of a collision, however, non-attorneys typically lack knowledge of the procedural rules, which can be fatal to their claims. If you were hurt in a car crash, it is smart to contact a Maryland car accident attorney to discuss your options for seeking damages.

The Relevant History

It is reported that the plaintiff filed a complaint, pro se, in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, Southern Division. The complaint asserted that the defendant drove an unsafe vehicle that subsequently caused a collision with the plaintiff and that due to the crash, the plaintiff suffered extensive damages. The plaintiff sought punitive damages on the grounds that the defendant knew the vehicle was unsafe prior to the accident. The defendant moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint, arguing that the plaintiff failed to assert a claim that would entitle him to relief. Upon review, the Court granted the defendant’s motion.

Pleading Requirements in Car Accident Cases Filed in Federal Court

The pleading standards established by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (the Rules) only require a party to set forth a plain and short statement of their claim that shows they are entitled to relief. The Rules dictate, though, that if a complaint does not set forth a claim for which relief may be granted, it should be dismissed. As such, a motion to dismiss requires an analysis of the sufficiency of a complaint. Continue Reading ›

Spills regularly occur in grocery stores, and if they are not cleaned up promptly, they can lead to slip and fall accidents. While grocery stores can be held accountable for losses caused by their carelessness, they will often try to avoid liability by arguing that the injured party is partially at fault for their harm. In a recent opinion, a Maryland court explained the affirmative defense of contributory negligence and what a defendant must prove to prevail on the defense. If you were injured in a slip and fall accident, you should speak to a Maryland premises liability attorney as soon as possible to determine what evidence you must produce to recover compensation.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff was shopping in the defendant’s grocery store when she slipped and fell in an area that a store employee recently mopped. She sustained knee injuries that required surgical repair. She subsequently filed a premises liability lawsuit against the defendant, arguing that its negligence caused her harm. Following discovery, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing, among other things, the affirmative defense of contributory negligence.

It is alleged that the defendant argued that the knowledge that the floor was wet should be imputed to the plaintiff because there were “wet floor” warning signs in the store. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed. Continue Reading ›

A Maryland personal injury action is initiated when the plaintiff files a pleading, commonly referred to as the complaint, with the courts.  If the complaint does not conform to the Maryland Rules, it may be dismissed, as in an October 20, 2021 case before the Court of Special Appeals.  The plaintiff brought the appeal after the circuit court dismissed his complaint and denied his motion to file an amended complaint.

The plaintiff in the case was injured while performing his job as a construction worker.  As he was using a bore for the installation of a gas pipeline, the tool caught on his foot.  His foot slipped and went inside the machine, resulting in severe injuries to his foot and a partial amputation.  The plaintiff filed a negligence action against multiple companies and contractors present on the job site, as well as the owner of the property, and sought damages exceeding two million dollars.

The defendants filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the complaint did not comply with the Maryland Rules.  In particular, the defendants argued that the complaint failed to characterize the damages sought as being in excess of $75,000, asserted the same legal conclusions against all of the defendants, and failed to allege any facts establishing the liability of a specific defendant.  The plaintiff opposed the motion and sought to amend the complaint, which the circuit court denied.  The ruling effectively barred the plaintiff’s suit, as any re-filed action would be subject to a statue of limitations defense. 

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Determining the appropriate circuit court in which to file a Maryland personal injury action depends on several factors.  In certain situations, the plaintiff’s initial choice of venue may be transferred to another court at the request of a defendant.  In a September 23, 2021 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed whether a circuit court had properly granted the defendant’s motion for a change of venue.

The plaintiff in the case alleged that he suffered injuries as a result of a forklift accident at the defendant’s warehouse, which was located in Howard County.  The accident occurred as the plaintiff was moving boxes onto a loading dock.  At the same time, an employee of the defendant was operating a forklift to transport trash from the loading dock.  The plaintiff claimed that the employee struck and rolled over the plaintiff with the forklift, causing bodily injuries.

The plaintiff filed a negligence action against the employee operating the forklift and the defendant in the circuit court for Prince George’s County.  The defendant subsequently moved to transfer venue to Howard County, arguing that its principal place of business is in Howard County, the accident occurred in Howard County, and at least some witnesses would be from Howard County.  When the court granted the motion, the plaintiff appealed. 

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In some Maryland car accident cases, financial losses from personal injuries and property damage may be covered by more than one type of insurance policy.  In a September 29, 2021 case, the question for the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland was whether the liability limits of an auto insurance policy and an umbrella insurance policy could be combined, despite the household exclusion contained therein.

The case arose out of a tragic car accident that seriously injured the plaintiff and claimed the lives of her parents and sibling.  It occurred as plaintiff’s father was driving the family to a high school play.  As he made a left turn, their vehicle was struck by a sedan traveling at approximately 115 miles per hour.

At the time of the accident, the plaintiff’s father had a primary auto liability policy and an umbrella liability policy issued by the insurance company named as the defendant in the case.  The primary policy had a liability coverage limit of $500,000 for personal injuries and property damage for each accident.  The umbrella policy had a coverage limit of $2 million in excess of the automobile liability coverage.  The umbrella policy also contained a household exclusion provision, which stated that the policy did not cover claims for injuries to any person related to an insured by blood, marriage, or adoption residing in the household of the insured.

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Pedestrian injuries may arise from defective or crumbling sidewalks, construction debris, and improperly maintained infrastructure, such as water meters.  In an October 20, 2021 case, the plaintiff was injured as a result of a loose water meter cover.  When she stepped on the water meter, the lid moved, causing her leg to fall into the hole beneath.  The plaintiff was taken to the hospital by her family, where she was treated for her injuries.

The plaintiff filed a premises liability suit against Baltimore City, alleging that it was liable for injuries caused by the dangerous condition of the water meter cover.  The jury ultimately found that the City was liable, and awarded damages to the plaintiff.  The City subsequently appealed, and the case came before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

Under Maryland law, before a government municipality can be liable for a dangerous condition, it must have had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition prior to the plaintiff’s injury.  A municipality has actual notice when its employees either personally observed the dangerous condition, or were informed of the dangerous condition.  Constructive notice occurs when the dangerous condition has existed for so long that the municipality should have learned of it by exercising due care.

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In Maryland, actions brought under the Health Care and Malpractice Act include lawsuits for negligent dental treatment, in addition to medical malpractice.  To establish a dental negligence action, opinion testimony from a dental or medical expert witness is generally required.  In an August 11, 2021 case, the Court of Special Appeals considered whether a lower court erred in determining that the expert opinions of the plaintiff’s witnesses were inadmissible evidence, which then served as the basis for granting summary judgment in favor of the defendants.

The plaintiff in the case alleged that she suffered a permanent loss of feeling in her tongue as a result of her oral surgeon severing lingual nerves in her jaw during the extraction of her wisdom teeth.  She filed a lawsuit asserting malpractice claims against the doctor, the surgery center, and the dentist who treated her afterward.

The plaintiff designated two expert witnesses to testify that her injury was more likely than not caused by a severed lingual nerve, which was preventable had the defendants not deviated from the standard of care when removing her wisdom teeth.  Following discovery, the defendants moved for summary judgement, arguing that the plaintiff’s expert opinion evidence was insufficient.  The trial court granted the motion, finding that the expert opinions were inadmissible because they relied on impermissible inferences of negligence and were not based on the plaintiff’s treatment records.

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Personal injuries occurring on construction sites often involve independent contractors, sub-contractors, and their respective employees.  Whether a property owner and/or another sub-contractor on site may be held liable for these types of accidents was the question for the Court of Special Appeals in an October 1, 2021 Maryland wrongful death case.

The case involved the tragic death of a young construction worker who was killed when an excavation wall collapsed on the job site.  The decedent was the employee of a contractor hired by the City to fix a clogged pipe buried deep in the ground.  Although the contractor who employed the decedent was negligent in failing to ensure that the excavation wall was properly supported, legal action against was barred by Maryland workers’ compensation laws.  Instead, the decedent’s family filed suit against the City and another sub-contractor working on the site.  The plaintiffs claimed that the City was liable for the decedent’s death by failing to hire a qualified contractor to properly and safely do the job, and that the sub-contractor was liable by failing to ensure that the work was performed safely and appropriately.

As a general rule, the employer of an independent contractor is not liable for physical harm caused to another by the acts and omissions of a contractor and the contractor’s employees.  The lack of liability is often a major reason one would hire an independent contractor, rather than having one’s own employee do the job.  There are many exceptions under Maryland law, however, which were considered by the court on appeal.

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In some Maryland auto accident cases, insurance coverage for personal injuries may be available under multiple policies.  Generally, the laws of the state in which the policy was issued govern coverage disputes.   In a September 21, 2021 case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered whether underinsured motorist coverage was available for a Delaware resident under an insurance policy issued to a Maryland resident.

The plaintiff in the case was a Delaware resident.  She was named as an “additional driver” of a vehicle insured by her daughter, a Maryland resident, under a Maryland auto insurance policy.  The plaintiff was injured in an accident in Delaware, in which she was the passenger of a car that was not insured by the Maryland policy at issue.  The plaintiff settled with the driver’s insurance company for his policy limits of $15,000, which was insufficient to cover all of her damages.  The plaintiff then claimed underinsured motorist benefits under the Maryland policy issued to her daughter, which the insurance company denied.

The plaintiff filed suit against the insurance company that issued her daughter’s policy.  When the circuit court granted the insurer’s motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff appealed to the higher court.

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