Articles Posted in Personal Injury

A Maryland wrongful death action may be brought by the decedent’s surviving family members against the party or parties who are liable for their death.  In a June 16, 2020 wrongful death case, the decedent died at the age of 21 as a result of cardiac arrest following an acute asthma attack.  His parents and estate filed suit, asserting wrongful death and related claims against the county, as well as the paramedic and emergency medical technician (EMT) who assisted him.  The case came before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland after the lower court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants.

Shortly before his death, the decedent began experiencing difficulty breathing while at a friend’s house.  Responding to the 911 call for the decedent, the emergency medical service providers arrived on the scene and transported the decedent to the hospital, where he later died.  The decedent’s survivors brought their wrongful death claim based on the defendants’ timing and propriety of their response.  The defendants then filed a motion for summary judgment on grounds of immunity, which the circuit court granted.  The appeal followed.

In Maryland, there are two laws that may provide a basis for immunity for paramedics and EMTs.  Under the Good Samaritan Act, a person is not liable for any act or omission while giving medical care if they were not grossly negligent, the medical assistance was free, and it was provided either at the scene of the emergency, or through communications with someone providing emergency assistance.  Under the Fire & Rescue Companies Act, the employees of a rescue company are immune from civil liability for any act or omission in the course of performing their duties.

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Presenting sufficient evidence is crucial for a plaintiff to establish a Maryland personal injury claim.  Generally, the trial court will determine whether evidence is admissible, and therefore permitted to be shown to a jury.  In an April 16, 2020 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed some of the disputed evidence in a lead paint case.  The appeal arose from a lawsuit filed by the plaintiff, who alleged that the defendant’s negligence resulted in her exposure to lead paint.  After a trial, the jury returned a verdict finding the defendant not guilty of negligence.  The plaintiff then sought review regarding the admissibility of certain evidence in the case.

The plaintiff in the case had lived at a property owned by the defendants from her birth in 1996 until 2008.  Her mother testified that the plaintiff had learned to sit, crawl, and walk at the property, and would put thing in her mouth that were on the floor, including paint chips and things with paint chips on them.  She also testified that the plaintiff had difficulty in school, specifically problems with focusing and concentrating.

At trial, the plaintiff sought to admit a lead testing survey report relied upon by her expert witness.  The defendant objected in that the report was prepared by someone whom the expert had trained.  The trial court ruled that the expert could testify about the data in the report, but that the report could not be admitted or given to the jury for their interpretation.  At the close of trial, the jury found in favor of the defendant.  One of the issues argued by the plaintiff on appeal was that the trial court had erred by not allowing the lead testing survey report.

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A Maryland personal injury claim may be based on the intentional or negligent conduct of another person.  Bringing a legal action against law enforcement officers for injuries may require specific considerations.  In a June 2, 2020 opinion, the Maryland Court of Appeals reviewed a case brought by the estate of an individual against a city police officer.  The matter had been tried before a jury, which awarded damages to the plaintiff after finding the police officer used excessive force during the encounter.  The Court of Special Appeals subsequently overturned the jury’s finding, and the plaintiff sought review from the Maryland Court of Appeals.

The decedent in the case had been pulled over by the officer after driving on the wrong side of the road.  A surveillance video showed the decedent exiting his vehicle and approaching the officer, but did not show whether the decedent was armed.  Testimony revealed that the officer fired four shots at the decedent, who was unarmed.  The decedent was treated for his injuries but died due to causes unrelated to the incident, and his estate filed the action against the officer on his behalf.

In a Maryland excessive force case, the plaintiff has the burden to establish that the law enforcement officer exceeded the level of force an objectively reasonable officer would use under the same or similar situation.  To determine whether a police officer has used excessive force, the jury must consider circumstances such as the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect posed an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, whether he was actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by fleeing, and that law enforcement officers are often forced to make split-second judgments in situations that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving.  A law enforcement officer may only use deadly force when the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a threat of serious physical harm, either to the officer or others.

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Although medical expenses and other losses resulting from a car accident may be covered under more than one insurance policy, as a general rule, you cannot recover duplicate benefits for the same incident.  A Maryland injury attorney can help by pursuing the maximum benefits allowable under the facts of a specific case.

A March 18, 2020 case involving a pedestrian-auto accident illustrates some issues that may arise when multiple sources of coverage may be available.  The plaintiff in the case was on foot and about to enter his company vehicle when he was struck by a car.  He sustained injuries as a result of the accident, which he alleged caused damages of approximately $90,000 to $100,000.

The driver’s insurance company agreed to pay the $30,000 policy limit to the plaintiff.  Because the accident occurred while the plaintiff was working, he filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, for which he received almost $46,000.  The plaintiff was also covered under the insurance policy for the company vehicle, which provided underinsured motorist coverage up to $50,000 per person.  The plaintiff filed suit against the insurer of the company vehicle to recover underinsured motorist benefits.

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Employers and landowners generally have a duty to keep the property safe for individuals hired to perform work on the premises.  In a May 12, 2020 Maryland personal injury case, the plaintiff sued the owners of a manufacturing plant after falling into a trench on the property.  After the circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, the case came before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland on appeal by the plaintiff.

The plaintiff in the case worked for an independent contractor, who was hired by the defendants to renovate the floor and trench system of their manufacturing plant.  One day, the plaintiff’s supervisor instructed him to see someone working in a different building of the plant.  Once the plaintiff entered the building, he saw someone struggling with a piece of plywood and went to assist him.  The plaintiff picked up one end of the plywood and as he stepped forward, he fell into a two-foot trench.  The plaintiff filed a personal injury suit against the plant owners, alleging negligence.

In Maryland, employers of independent contractors must adhere to the safe workplace doctrine.  Under the doctrine, the employer must warn the employee of any concealed or latent dangers, of which the employer knows or should know with the exercise of ordinary care.  However, an employer or premises owner can discharge their duty to warn employees of an independent contractor by notifying the independent contractor or his supervisory employees of the latent danger.

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As a general rule, negligent landowners are liable to their guests for personal injuries caused by a dangerous condition on their property.  Maryland law allows few exceptions to this general rule, one of which is under its Recreational Use Statute.  In an April 29, 2020 Maryland personal injury case, the Court of Special Appeals considered whether the statute relieved a defendant of liability after the plaintiff suffered catastrophic injuries on his property.

The defendant in the case had constructed several all-terrain vehicle (ATV) courses on the property.  The land was not open to the public, and was used primarily by the defendant to store excavating equipment from his construction company and deposit dirt from construction sites.  However, the defendant hosted an event on the property for family and friends, including the plaintiff, and invited them to ride ATVs and dirt bikes.  While traversing one of the courses on the ATV, the plaintiff was thrown over the handlebars.  As a result of the accident, the plaintiff suffered a spinal injury that rendered him a quadriplegic.

The plaintiff sued the defendant for negligence, alleging that the accident occurred because of the defective design of the ATV course.  The circuit court eventually granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, concluding that he was immune under Maryland’s Recreational Use Statute.  The issue was then brought before the Court of Special Appeals.

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In Maryland, drivers are required to have a motor vehicle insurance policy that includes uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.  This mandatory coverage protects insured drivers from paying out-of-pocket expenses for their injuries if they are involved in a motor vehicle accident caused by an uninsured or inadequately insured driver.  It may also give rise to a claim against a driver’s own insurance company, as in an April 20, 2020 Maryland personal injury case.

The plaintiff in the case was involved in an automobile accident in April of 2011, in which her vehicle was rear-ended by a vehicle traveling behind her.  The plaintiff’s injuries required extensive medical treatment from the date of the accident until July 2014.  The driver who caused the accident had an insurance policy with a $20,000 limit per person for bodily injuries, which was not enough to cover the full amount of the plaintiff’s medical expenses.  Under the plaintiff’s auto insurance policy, she was covered up to $300,000 per person for injuries caused by an uninsured or underinsured motorist.

The plaintiff collected the $20,000 policy limit settlement offer from the other driver’s insurer nearly two years after the accident.  She then attempted to collect additional underinsured motorist benefits from her own insurer.  The settlement negotiations went on for several years and, with her claim still pending, the plaintiff filed suit against her insurer in September of 2016.  The insurance company filed a motion to dismiss, contending that her suit was barred by the three-year statute of limitations.

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Accidents can be caused by negligence of more than one person.  In some Maryland personal injury cases, the damages are apportioned to each defendant by fault.  Unfortunately, this may result in reduced damages when one of the defendants is the local government, as illustrated in an April 14, 2020 case.  The plaintiff was awarded over 2.6 million in damages for personal injuries after a jury found the City and contractor negligent.  However, because the City’s negligence was a superseding cause to the contractor’s negligence, the contractor was released from liability, and the damage award was reduced pursuant to the Local Government Tort Claims Act.

The facts of the case are as follows.  In 2007, the City hired the contractor to restore a ball field.  The project included installation of wooden bollards along the adjacent public road, with a barrier gate to allow restricted access from the roadway into the park.  The project was completed in 2011.  In April of 2014, the plaintiff in the case sustained severe injuries when his car collided with the barrier gate, which had swung open into the roadway.  At trial, the evidence established that the gate was not constructed in conformance with the blueprints created by the architect.

In Maryland, a plaintiff must prove four elements to prevail in a claim of negligence: 1) the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty to conform to a certain standard of care; 2) the defendant breached this duty; 3) actual damage to the plaintiff; and 4) causation.  The City is generally allowed immunity for governmental and discretionary acts, such as the maintenance of a public park.  However, a municipality has a private proprietary obligation to maintain its streets, as well as the sidewalks, footways and the areas contiguous to them, in a reasonably safe condition.

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After a person is injured in an accident, it may be difficult or impossible in some cases to determine the exact cause of the accident.  However, if direct evidence of negligence is unavailable, the plaintiff may be able to assert a negligence claim based on res ipsa loquitur.  In an April 8, 2020 Maryland personal injury case, the plaintiff won her negligence suit against a hotel management company by applying the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur.  The defendant appealed the jury verdict and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals reviewed the issue of res ipsa loquitur.

The plaintiff in the case had been staying in an extended-stay suite at a hotel managed by the defendant.  One night, as the plaintiff was in the kitchen, the cabinet over the sink wholly detached from the wall, falling on the plaintiff and pinning her against the counter.  She testified that, immediately following the accident, she had symptoms that included vomiting, loss of balance, headaches, and difficulty speaking, which continued for months thereafter.  As a result of these symptoms, the plaintiff suffered multiple falls and was unable to return to work.

The plaintiff subsequently brought suit against the defendant, basing her negligence claim on res ipsa loquitur.  The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur allows the jury to infer negligence on the part of a defendant from the facts surrounding the injury, even though those facts do not show the exact cause or precise manner in which the defendant was negligent.  Generally, res ipsa loquitur applies in situations where direct evidence as to the cause of the accident is unavailable, or where it rests exclusively with the defendant.

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Highway collisions involving commercial rigs or semi-trucks frequently cause life-threatening, and even fatal, injuries to people who are riding in passenger cars.  While negligent truck drivers and their employers may be held liable for the full amount of economic damages suffered by the victims, compensation for pain and suffering and non-economic damages is limited under Maryland law.  The plaintiff in a March 18, 2020 Maryland car accident case challenged the state’s cap on non-economic damages, arguing before the Court of Special Appeals that the cap was unconstitutional.

The plaintiff in the case was driving on a Maryland highway when the defendant crossed the center median strip and struck her vehicle head on.  At the time of the collision, the defendant was driving a commercial vehicle for his employer, which was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.  The plaintiff sustained catastrophic injuries as a result of the accident and underwent multiple surgeries in order to save her life and her arm.  Thereafter, the plaintiff began a significant and life-changing recovery process, requiring near continuous medical care and psychological treatment for the trauma.

It was determined that the truck driver was intoxicated at the time of the collision, and that his employer was aware of his prior drunk driving charges.  After a trial, the jury awarded the plaintiff over $314,000 for medical expenses, $2.5 million for non-economic damages, and $3 million for punitive damages against the employer.  The trial court, in accordance with Maryland law, reduced the non-economic damages to $830,000.  On appeal, the plaintiff solely challenged the constitutionality of Maryland’s statutory cap on non-economic damages.

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