Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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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In a Maryland personal injury action, the plaintiff may seek damages for economic and non-economic losses.  Non-economic damages may include compensation for pain, suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life, among others.  Unlike economic damages, which are based on objective evidence of the monetary loss and expenses incurred from an injury, non-economic damages are determined subjectively.  In a July 1, 2020 decision, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals reviewed a jury verdict awarding the plaintiff $250,000 for non-economic damages in a car accident case.

The defendant in the case was involved in a motor vehicle accident while operating a truck owned by his employer.  A piece of the truck’s drive shaft flew off in the accident and bounced into the road, striking the plaintiff’s windshield and landing in her passenger seat.  The plaintiff was treated for a soft tissue sprain injuries.  She was also treated for anxiety, depression, and other emotional issues related to the accident.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury suit claiming emotional distress, mental anguish, and pre-impact fright.  At trial, the defendant sought to introduce evidence of the plaintiff’s personal history and prior assault conviction, arguing that those issues were the source of emotional distress for which she sought counseling.  The trial court allowed the defense to cross-examine the plaintiff and other witnesses about other causes of her emotional distress, but excluded evidence of the conviction itself.  Following deliberations, the jury awarded the plaintiff $250,000.00 for non-economic damages.

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“Phantom vehicle” is a term that refers to a vehicle that causes personal injury or property damage without making any physical contact with the person or car.  Accidents involving phantom vehicles may be problematic when filing a claim with your insurance company, as illustrated in a June 18, 2020 Maryland injury case.

The plaintiff in the case was stopped in his car at a red light, when his vehicle was struck from behind by a car driven by the defendant.  The plaintiff brought a personal injury claim against the defendant, seeking damages of $25,000.  The plaintiff also filed a claim for uninsured motorist benefits against his own insurer, arguing that his auto policy covered damages caused by a phantom vehicle that did not remain at the scene of an accident, as alleged by the defendant in the case.

In a hearing before the trial, the defendant admitted that she caused the accident, eliminating any possibility that the jury would find that a phantom vehicle caused the accident.  On the morning of trial, the court severed the plaintiff’s claims against his insurance company, so that those claims would be decided in a separate trial.  As such, the only issue for the jury to decide at trial was the amount of damages that the defendant caused to the plaintiff.  The jury returned a verdict awarding damages of $1,560.  Because that amount was within the liability limits of the defendant’s insurance policy, the court entered a directed verdict in favor of the insurance company on the plaintiff’s remaining claims.  The plaintiff then appealed to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

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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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