Failure to comply with certain procedural rules may be detrimental to a Maryland wrongful death action, as illustrated in a March 10, 2020 case. Following the fatal car accident of his daughter, the plaintiff filed a wrongful death suit against the mayor and city council, alleging faulty construction and maintenance of the road on which the accident occurred. However, the plaintiff had failed to provide timely notice of his claim within the required deadline. As a result, the lower court granted summary judgment in favor the City. The plaintiff subsequently appealed the matter to the Court of Special Appeals.
Under Maryland law, an action for damages against a local government or its employees requires that notice of the claim be given within 180 days after the injury. However, the plaintiff’s failure to provide proper notice to the appropriate governmental body may be overcome by a showing of good cause, as long as the defendant was not prejudiced as a result of the lack of notice.
The general standard used to determine “good cause” is whether the plaintiff prosecuted his claim with the degree of diligence that an ordinarily prudent person would have exercised under the same circumstances. When deciding whether that standard has been met, Maryland courts typically consider five factors: (1) excusable neglect or mistake, as determined by the reasonably prudent person standard, (2) serious physical, mental injury, and/or location out-of-state, (3) the inability to retain counsel in cases involving complex litigation, (4) ignorance of the statutory notice requirement, or (5) misleading representations made by representative of the local government.