Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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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Motor vehicle accidents involving pedestrians can result in serious personal injuries to the more vulnerable people who are on foot.  If a Maryland pedestrian accident was caused by a careless driver, the person on foot may be able to recover damages for medical expenses and other losses in a negligence action.  The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland recently issued an October 14, 2020 opinion in an unusual car accident case.

The plaintiffs in the case filed a personal injury action against the defendant, alleging that the defendant had injured them by negligently striking them with her vehicle.  More specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that the defendant was making a left turn and struck the plaintiffs in the middle of a marked crosswalk on the street, knocking them to the ground and injuring them.

The defendant, in turn, argued that her vehicle never made contact with the plaintiffs.  The defendant further claimed that the plaintiffs were already injured before they entered the crosswalk and had laid down in the road as her vehicle approached them.  At trial, a witness testified that she saw the plaintiffs standing on the sidewalk prior to the incident and noticed that their faces were bloody.  The witness went on to testify that the plaintiffs had laid down in the street before the defendant had even approached. Following trial, the jury found in favor of the defendant.

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When a person’s death was caused by negligence, the surviving family members may bring a Maryland wrongful death action against the responsible party.  In some cases, however, the law grants immunity to certain people and entities.  In a July 24, 2020 decision, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered whether the defendant, a mental health care provider, was statutorily immune from liability with respect to the plaintiffs’ wrongful death suit.

The plaintiffs in the case were the family of a thirteen-year-old child who was shot and killed by a psychiatric patient who had absconded from a mental health care center.  The patient had been admitted to the psychiatric unit of the hospital after his arrest for armed robbery, fleeing the scene, and engaging in a stand-off with police.  Armed law enforcement officers were not allowed in the area of the hospital where the patient was being treated, although the hospital was notified that the patient would be arrested upon his discharge.  A few days after his admission to the center, the patient, still in a hospital gown, walked out of his room and left the building.  Eleven days later, the patient shot and killed the victim.

The plaintiffs brought a wrongful death and survival action against the center and other defendants, alleging that they were negligent in failing to prevent the patient from leaving the hospital eleven days prior to the shooting.  The center argued that as a mental health care provider, it is immune from civil liability for failing to provide protection from a patient’s violent behavior.  The circuit court agreed and dismissed the claims, and the plaintiffs filed the instant appeal.

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Auto insurance laws vary widely among states.  When the court must determine which state’s law to apply in a car accident case, multiple factors are considered.  In an August 11, 2020 decision, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed whether Maryland law was properly applied in a case involving an insurance policy issued in Pennsylvania.

The plaintiff in the case was a passenger in a vehicle that was involved in a rear-end accident in Maryland.  Both the plaintiff and the driver of the vehicle in which she rode were Pennsylvania residents.  The driver and owner of the other vehicle that rear-ended the plaintiff’s vehicle were residents of Maryland.  As a result of the accident, the plaintiff suffered neck and back injuries that required extensive medical treatment, including multiple surgeries.

The plaintiff filed suit in Maryland, seeking damages for medical expenses.  She brought claims against the other driver and the other driver’s insurance company, as well as her own insurance company and the insurance company of the driver of the vehicle in which she rode. The plaintiff settled with the other driver’s insurer for the liability limits of their policy.  The plaintiff continued to pursue her claims against the other insurers for underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage.

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Business owners and property holders may be held responsible for injuries caused by their negligence.  In an August 17, 2020 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a Maryland personal injury case arising out of an assault committed against the plaintiff in the parking lot of a bar owned by the defendant.  Following a trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant.  The plaintiff brought the instant appeal, arguing that the circuit court erred by not allowing him to present evidence of prior similar assaults on the defendant’s property.

The plaintiff in the case was with a friend at the bar and restaurant operated by the defendant.  When his friend got into a heated argument with an intoxicated individual, the plaintiff attempted to separate them.  The security officers then intervened and escorted the individual outside of the restaurant.  Security also asked the plaintiff and his friend to leave.  While the plaintiff was walking towards his car, the individual ran across the parking lot and punched him in the head, knocking him unconscious.  The plaintiff was left in a coma with a fractured skull and multiple head injuries.  The plaintiff brought suit against the defendant, alleging negligence and premises liability claims.

In a negligence case in Maryland, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant was under a duty to protect the plaintiff from injury, the defendant breached that duty, the plaintiff suffered an injury, which proximately resulted from the defendant’s breach of duty.  In general, a person has no duty to prevent a third party from causing physical harm by criminal acts, absent a special relationship.

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A Maryland wrongful death action against law enforcement officers, a police department, and/or the local government generally involves different legal standards than a typical lawsuit.  In a July 1, 2020 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a wrongful death case in which the decedent had been shot and killed by police officers.  Following a trial, the jury found in favor of the plaintiffs and awarded them more than 38 million dollars in damages.  The circuit court, however, granted the defendants’ post-trial motion and entered judgment in their favor.  The plaintiffs filed the instant appeal.

In the case, two police officers attempted to serve an arrest warrant on the decedent at her apartment for failing to appear for a misdemeanor trial.  Upon entering the apartment, they saw the decedent sitting on the floor with a shotgun.  The officers retreated and called for backup, which led to a six-hour stand-off between the decedent and multiple law enforcement officers stationed outside her apartment.  A police officer testified that the decedent pointed her gun towards officers positioned by the doorway, and at that point, he fired a shot that killed the decedent.  On appeal, one of the plaintiffs’ arguments was that the circuit court erred in entering judgment for the defendants notwithstanding the jury verdict and vacating the damage award for the plaintiffs.

In determining whether a police officer has used excessive force in violation of the U.S. Constitution or Maryland Declaration of Rights, the fact-finder must look to whether the officer’s actions were objectively reasonable in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them.  The use of deadly force by a police officer is reasonable only when the officer has probable cause to believe that a person poses a threat of serious physical harm to the officer or to others.  The burden is on the plaintiff to prove that the officer exceeded the level of force that an objectively reasonable officer would use under the same or similar situation.

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In Maryland, property owners have a duty to protect invitees from an unreasonable risk of harm on their land.  In some situations, this duty may extend to risks arising from intentional or criminal acts of third parties.  In a July 16, 2020 Maryland personal injury case, the Court of Special Appeals considered whether a university had breached its duty to protect a student who was injured in a fight on campus.

The plaintiff in the case was a freshman and student athlete at the university.  The plaintiff witnessed a fight between one of his teammates and a few other students outside his dormitory and intervened in an attempt to break it up.  In the melee, the plaintiff was attacked with a knife.  He suffered several stab wounds, a fractured rib, and a punctured lung that required surgery.

The plaintiff brought a negligence suit against the university, claiming that the university failed to provide adequate security on campus, which resulted in his injuries.  The university filed a motion to dismiss, which was granted by the circuit court.  The plaintiff sought review of that decision from the appellate court.

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