Articles Posted in Serious Accidents

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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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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Motorcycle and dirt bike riders can suffer life-threatening injuries when they are involved in a Maryland motor vehicle collision.  In a February 6, 2020 case, the plaintiff was seriously injured in a dirt bike accident while being pursued by a police cruiser.  He brought a negligence claim against the officer and other defendants to recover damages for personal injuries.  When the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, the plaintiff filed an appeal with the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

The defendant in the case was a police officer working secondary employment as a security guard at an apartment complex.  He observed the plaintiff’s cousin driving a dirt bike with the plaintiff, riding as a passenger, through the apartment complex.  Believing their dirt bike matched the description of a bike that had been reported stolen, the defendant approached them.  The plaintiff’s cousin sped away from the defendant and out of the apartment complex.  The defendant pursued them in his police cruiser onto the main road.  The defendant alleged that he did not witness the accident involving the plaintiff and his cousin, but came upon it after it had happened.

A Maryland negligence claim requires four elements: a duty owed to the plaintiff, breach of that duty, causation, and injury.  The trial court had dismissed the plaintiff’s negligence claim in part due to the lack of proximate causation.  On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the officer’s conduct was the proximate cause of the accident because he had chased the dirt bike despite an obvious error that it was stolen, and because his pursuit on public roads violated police policy.

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In a tragic Maryland wrongful death case, five people residing in a house died from carbon monoxide poisoning in their sleep.  The source of the leak was a negligently installed bathroom ventilation fan, which was connected to a flue carrying carbon monoxide gas from the water heater to the roof vent.  On the evening they died, someone had left on the bathroom fan.  Due to the improper fan connection, the carbon monoxide entered the rooms occupied by the victims.

The spouses and children of the victims brought suit, alleging negligence claims against the home warranty company that covered repairs to appliances in the house, two independent contractors with which the home warranty company contracted to do the repairs, and other defendants.  The trial court ruled that the home warranty contract absolved the independent contractors from any duty to address rust and holes in or around the flue pipes, and it granted summary judgment in favor of the independent contractor defendants.  The plaintiffs appealed the matter to the higher court.

In Maryland, negligence actions generally require proof of the elements of duty, breach, causation, and damages.  In reviewing whether the trial court erred by finding the independent contractor defendants did not owe a duty to the victims, the appeals court looked at the provisions of the contract between the home warranty company and the homeowners, as well as the agreements between the home warranty company and the independent contractors.  The court held that nothing in either of the agreements limited or controlled the work that the independent contractors could perform.  As a result, the home warranty company did not control the independent contractors, and nothing in the agreements precluded the existence of any other duty owed by the contractors to the victims.

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In many personal injury cases, the plaintiffs seek compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, and other losses caused by the careless acts of another person or business.  In an important decision issued on May 31, 2017, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a jury verdict that found in favor of the plaintiffs on their negligence claim against the general contractor that built their home.  The plaintiff in the case was injured after a safety guardrail in his home failed, causing him to fall 12 to 13 feet onto the concrete below.

After a trial, the jury awarded the plaintiffs $1,306,700 in damages, which was reduced by the statutory cap on noneconomic damages.  The defendant subsequently appealed the verdict.  On appeal, one of the defendant’s primary arguments was that it owed no duty to the plaintiffs to ensure the proper construction of the guardrail because the responsibility for its construction had been delegated to its sub-contractor.

In general, Maryland follows the rule that the employer of an independent contractor is not liable for physical harm caused to another party by an act or omission of the contractor or its employees.  However, there are many exceptions to this rule, most of which fall into three categories:  (1) negligence of the employer in selecting or supervising the contractor; (2) non-delegable duties of the employer; and (3) inherently dangerous work.

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In a decision published this spring, Davis v. Board of Ed. for Prince George’s County, Md. Ct. Sp. App. (2015), the Maryland Court of Special Appeals made a ruling following a granting of a motion for Judgment Not Withstanding the Verdict (JNOV).

In the case, a 13-year-old student was hit by a car as she was crossing the street to board a school bus. She died as a result of her injuries two weeks following the car accident. Her parents sued the school board for wrongful death, negligence, and other related claims. They alleged that the Board owed their daughter a duty of care to provide a bus stop on her side of the street, that they breached that duty, and that as a result, they proximately caused the girl’s injuries and death.

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Recently a flight nurse’s family settled a claim against a helicopter rotor blade manufacturer for $5.6 million. The nurse was killed in a crash when the main rotor apparently broke upon lift off. Product defects are frequently the cause for in flight accidents. As a result, manufacturers are often sued whenever there is an airplane accident. Read more about helicopter accidents here.

Truck accident causes brain damage and paralyzation
12/28/2011 02:57:30 PM

A New York jury recently awarded a man who was struck by a Verizon company truck and who ended up in a coma and had brain damage the sum of $40 million. The work van was apparently traveling approximately 50 m.p.h. As a result of his injuries, the man has permanent problems including being partially paralyzed and suffering from the brain damage.   Continue Reading ›

There are several reported Maryland cases regarding automobile accidents on ice or snow. They include Larkins v. Balt. Transit, 249 Md. 305; Billmeyer v. State f/u/o Whiteman, 192 Md. 419; Wolfe v. State f/u/o Brown, 173 Md. 103; and Trusty v. Wooden, 251 Md. 294. A person must use reasonable care when driving on ice or snow. This could include reducing speed and being aware of longer stopping distances. Car Accident on Ice or snow.

Slip and Fall Evidence
02/04/2010 09:34:32 AM

Slip and Fall. The case law in Maryland suggests that in order to prevail on a slip and fall case where liquid has been left on the floor Continue Reading ›

A medical malpractice lawsuit has been filed in Texas resulting from alleged hospital negligence. The allegations suggest that a 3 year old girl had a corroded lithium battery stuck in her nose and the hospital failed to take an x-ray of the noseat the initial emergency room visit and also sprayed medicines up the nose that caused the battery to leak acid into the nose.

New drug resistant infection
10/14/2009 01:28:23 PM

Physicians are concerned about a new infection that appears to be drug-resistant. Continue Reading ›

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