Court Upholds $500,000 Jury Award to Plaintiff in Maryland Car Accident Case

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.

The day before the trial, the defendants filed their notice of intent to rely on Pennsylvania law.  The plaintiff objected on grounds that notice was not timely given, and the circuit court granted the motion.  The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, awarding her $500,000 in damages.  The defendants appealed, arguing that Pennsylvania law should have applied.

When a lawsuit is filed in Maryland, it is subject to the Maryland Court Rules, which govern how parties are to notify each other of their intent to rely on out-of-state law.  The rule requires that the party seeking to rely on the law of another state must give reasonable notice of same to the opposing parties, either in the pleadings or by written notice, in order to offer the law into evidence or ask that judicial notice be taken.  However, if the circumstances indicate that no unfair surprise would result, the notice of intent to rely on foreign law may be filed up to the start of the trial.

On appeal, the court explained that the purpose of the rule is to allow parties to adequately prepare their cases.  The court also observed significant differences between Maryland and Pennsylvania law that would have significantly altered the outcome of the case.  In particular, Maryland law permits recovery of the full amount of damages, while Pennsylvania law is more restricted.  The appeals court therefore concluded that the lower court did not err in determining that it would be prejudicial to allow Pennsylvania law, and went on to affirm the verdict.

If you are seeking coverage of an insurance claim following an auto accident, a personal injury attorney can help.  At Foran & Foran, P.A., our hardworking lawyers can provide guidance and legal representation to people who have suffered injuries caused by negligent drivers, businesses, and other individuals.  Contact Foran & Foran online or call (301) 441-2022 to arrange a free consultation regarding your case.

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