Articles Posted in Personal Injury

In a negligence lawsuit, the testimony of an expert witness may be crucial to provide evidence supporting or refuting the allegations.  A qualified expert may testify as to the standard of care, causation, damages, and/or other elements of the claim.  In a February 2, 2021 Maryland personal injury case, the Court of Special Appeals considered whether the opinion testimony of an expert was properly allowed by the trial court.  The appeal was brought by the defendant after a jury awarded damages to the plaintiff resulting from his exposure to lead paint.

The plaintiff in the case had resided in a property owned by the defendant from his birth in December of 1991 to March of 1993.  The plaintiff claimed that as a result of his exposure to chipping, lead-based paint at the property, he suffered permanent cognitive deficits.  The plaintiff further alleged that the defendant’s negligence in failing to remove the lead-based paint from the property was a substantial contributing factor in causing his injuries.

At trial, the plaintiff presented testimony from multiple expert witnesses, including an expert in the field of lead-based paint detection, a clinical psychologist, a neurodevelopment pediatrician and a vocational rehabilitation consultant.  The jury ultimately returned a verdict finding that the defendant was negligent and awarded the plaintiff nearly $885,000 in future noneconomic damages and past damages.

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Non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, may be awarded in a Maryland personal injury lawsuit to compensate injured plaintiffs and their families for intangible losses.  Damages for pain and suffering, although not easily quantified by a dollar amount, can rest on the credibility of the plaintiff’s testimony, as in a January 6, 2021, personal injury case.  After the jury in the case awarded $350,000 to the plaintiff for non-economic damages, the defendant filed a motion to reduce the judgment.  The trial court denied the motion, and the defendant appealed the matter to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

The plaintiff in the case was dining at a restaurant owned by the defendant.  As she was eating a nacho appetizer, she bit into an industrial metal screw that had separated from the machine in the kitchen that tosses tortilla chips.  The pain was immediate and searing.  She incurred injuries to the upper left part of her mouth that required two root canals and three crowns.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury suit against the defendant, seeking damages to compensate her for her medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.  The defendant conceded that it owed the plaintiff a duty of care and that it had breached this duty.  Before trial, the plaintiff withdrew her claims for past medical expenses and lost wages, leaving non-economic damages as the only component of her requested damages.  The sole issues for the jury, therefore, were whether the screw proximately caused the plaintiff’s injuries, and if so, the amount, if any, of non-economic damages to award the plaintiff.  After a three-day trial, the jury returned a verdict of $350,000.

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To establish a personal injury claim, the plaintiff must prove each element of the cause of action.  In a January 19, 2021, Maryland car accident case, the only element at issue was the matter of damages suffered by the plaintiff.  Although the defendant had admitted his negligence in causing the collision, the plaintiff was nevertheless required to prove her injuries and damages flowing from the accident.  After the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff but awarded no damages, the plaintiff appealed, and the matter came before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

The plaintiff in the case was stopped at an intersection when the defendant collided into the rear of her vehicle.  The defendant admitted that he had taken his eyes off the road and apologized to the plaintiff.  The plaintiff did not seek medical attention at the time of the accident.  The next morning, however, the plaintiff felt that her body was starting to stiffen up.  She went to see an orthopedic surgeon who had previously treated her for a neck condition.  Her surgeon concluded that the plaintiff’s injuries were consistent with whiplash.  Over the next two years, the plaintiff continued to seek medical treatment for cervical and lumbar strains.

At trial, the sole issue was the amount of damages, if any, suffered by the plaintiff.  The plaintiff presented witness testimony from her doctors and parents.  She did not introduce any of her medical bills into evidence, relying purely on testimony to establish her damages.  After a brief deliberation, the jury returned a verdict awarding the plaintiff zero damages.

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In some cases, Maryland trip and fall accidents may be caused by building design defects, negligent contractors, or careless property owners.  A person injured by a dangerous condition on real property may seek damages from the allegedly negligent or liable party in a personal injury suit, as in a recent case before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.  In its January 6, 2021 opinion, the court considered an appeal filed by the plaintiff after a jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant on her negligence claim.

The plaintiff in the case was working at a model home in Maryland.  As she was leaving the property, she fell on the exterior front steps.  She testified that she stepped down with her right foot onto the first step, then moved her left foot without realizing there was a second step.  In her suit against the landscaping company and concrete contractor, the plaintiff claimed that the steps did not comply with the relevant building code requirements.

Prior to trial, the concrete contractor filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that although it had poured the concrete for the front stoop of the property, it was not involved in the design or installation of the brick steps and walkway.  The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiff’s negligence claims proceeded solely against the landscaping company.  After a three-day trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant.

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For young children, lead-based paint exposure can result in long-term injuries.  In a December 21, 2020 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a personal injury case brought by a plaintiff against a property owner.  The plaintiff alleged that the defendants were negligent in maintaining the property, which caused the plaintiff’s exposure to lead and subsequent injuries related to that exposure.  After a jury returned a $1.7 million dollar verdict in favor of the plaintiff in the Maryland personal injury case, the defendants filed the instant appeal.

The plaintiff in the case had lived with his mother and siblings at the defendants’ property from September of 1996 to February of 1998.  During his childhood, the plaintiff was tested for the presence of lead in his blood on numerous occasions.  After living at the defendants’ property for approximately one year, a blood test revealed that the plaintiff had elevated levels of lead in his blood.  The plaintiff sued the defendants after he reached the age of majority, alleging negligence and other claims.  The plaintiff succeeded on his negligence claim against the defendants, and the jury awarded him $1,725,936.00 in economic damages.

On appeal, one of the arguments asserted by the defendants was that the trial court erred by improperly allowing evidence of Housing Code violations and instructing the jury that such violations established a prima facie case of negligence.  The defendants contended that the evidence was irrelevant and prejudicial.

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Under Maryland laws, a business owner has a duty to exercise ordinary care to keep their property safe for customers.  In turn, each customer has a corresponding duty to exercise care for their own safety.  In some negligence cases, the assumption of risk may be a factor in determining the liability of the business owner.  In a December 16, 2020 the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered whether the jury was properly instructed on the issue of open and obvious dangers and the assumption of risk.  The suit was filed by the plaintiff on behalf of her minor son, after he suffered a slip and fall injury at an amusement park operated by the defendant.

The minor in the case was ten years old at the time of the accident.  During his visit to the defendant’s amusement park, he was injured after he fell while crossing a wet wooden pedestrian bridge near a water ride.  The minor’s mother brought suit, alleging that the defendant allowed water from the ride to accumulate on the wooden walkway, which the defendant knew or should have known created a dangerous slipping hazard.  The defendant argued that the wet and slippery condition of the bridge was open and obvious, and therefore, it had no duty to warn or cure the alleged dangerous condition.

After the close of evidence at trial, the defendant requested that the court present its open and obvious defense to the jury on the verdict sheet.  The trial court denied the motion, and the jury was asked to determine four issues: whether the defendant was negligent, whether the minor was contributorily negligent, whether the minor had assumed the risk, and damages.  The jury ultimately found that the defendant was negligent and awarded $45,000 in damages to the plaintiff.

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In a typical personal injury suit arising out of a car accident, the plaintiff has the burden to prove that the defendant’s negligence caused the plaintiff’s injuries.  In a December 10, 2020 opinion, the Court of Appeals of Maryland reviewed a case involving an automobile collision. Following a trial, the jury concluded the plaintiff’s injuries were not caused or aggravated by the Maryland car accident.  After the lower court denied the plaintiff’s motion for a new trial, the plaintiff filed an appeal.

The plaintiff in the case was making a left turn at an intersection pursuant to a green arrow when the defendant proceeded through a red light and collided with the plaintiff’s vehicle.  The plaintiff testified that she felt some discomfort immediately after the collision, so she went home instead of going to work.  Weeks later, the plaintiff sought care from her regular health care provider, who had been treating her neck and back pain for several years.  She began physical therapy, but when that caused her pain, she went to an orthopedist who recommended surgery.  The plaintiff underwent shoulder surgery thereafter.

The plaintiff filed suit against the defendant, alleging that the accident caused her shoulder injury and seeking compensation for her medical expenses.  The case went to trial, and although the jury found that the defendant was negligent in the accident, it also found that the injuries to the plaintiff were not caused or aggravated by the accident.  On appeal, the plaintiff contended that the statements made by the defendant’s counsel during opening arguments were prejudicial and violated the “golden rule.”

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In some Maryland personal injury suits, the failure to follow procedural rules can have a detrimental impact on the outcome of the case.  In a November 30, 2020 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered whether it was appropriate for a trial court to sanction the plaintiffs’ failure to respond to discovery by dismissing their case.

The plaintiffs in the case were a married couple who brought suit against their neighbor, alleging that his negligence had caused the wife to suffer a serious head injury.  The injury arose when the neighbor had asked the plaintiffs to assist him in retrieving a rowboat at the bottom of a rocky embankment.  Attempting a makeshift pulley system, the neighbor tied a climbing rope to the trailer hitch of his SUV, while the husband tied the other end to the rowboat.  The neighbor then wrapped the rope around a large boulder and asked the wife to watch the rope.  As the neighbor moved the boat, the rope dislodged and struck the wife in her chest.  The force of the rope catapulted her over an adjacent retaining wall and into the rocky embankment.

The husband rushed to his wife and told the neighbor to call 911.  While waiting for emergency services, they moved the wife back home.  The husband asked the neighbor about the ambulance, and the neighbor stated he never called because he didn’t have his cell phone.  The husband then contacted emergency services, which arrived minutes later.  The wife was airlifted to a hospital and placed into a medically induced coma for six days but survived following a long recovery.

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Generally, the plaintiff has the burden of proving the elements of a Maryland personal injury claim.  The evidence used in support of the claim must be admissible under the Maryland Rules of Civil Procedure.  In an October 23, 2020 case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered whether the circuit court erred by allowing testimony regarding a defendant’s salary into evidence.  The defendants brought the appeal after the jury returned a verdict finding the defendants negligent and awarded the plaintiff 2.2 million dollars in damages.

The plaintiff in the case had resided in property owned by the defendants from his birth until he was two years old.  During the plaintiff’s childhood, he was tested three times for the presence of lead in his blood.  Two of the tests taken while he was living at the property at issue revealed elevated levels of lead in his blood.

The plaintiff sued the companies that owned and managed the property and the president of the companies, alleging that their negligence in maintaining the property caused his exposure to and subsequent injuries from lead paint.  At trial, the president was called to testify.  Counsel for the plaintiff asked him to state his highest annual income while working for the defendants.  Over objection, the president provided his salary.  The plaintiff went on to win the case.

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In Maryland, school systems have a duty to adequately train teachers, administrators, and personnel.  In a November 9, 2020 Maryland personal injury case, the Court of Special Appeals analyzed the nature and scope of the duty that teachers and administrators have to protect students from the heightened potential of injury.  The plaintiff brought the lawsuit on behalf of her middle school daughter, who was injured while engaging in a required physical education (P.E.) event at her school.

The event in the case was an obstacle course “monster run.”  The plaintiff alleged that during a capture the flag event, her daughter was pushed to the ground by an older boy.  She was knocked unconscious when she fell, and treated for a left knee dislocation at the hospital.  The plaintiff claimed that the school was negligent by failing to supervise the students and protect her daughter from injury and creating an unsafe environment, among other allegations.  The matter came before the appeals court after the lower court entered judgment in favor of the school board.

In Maryland, a negligence claim requires a duty of care owed by the defendant to the victim, a breach of that duty, causation, and injury.  On appeal, the court recognized that P.E. activities may present a greater risk of injury to students.  The court explained that, for purposes of civil liability, the scope of the duty of teachers and administrators to protect students is comprised of two elements: (1) designing the program in a way that takes account of and reasonably attempts to curb foreseeable risks of injury, and (2) supervising the students during the program.

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