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Maryland Appeals Court Allows Plaintiff to File Amended Complaint for Construction Injury

A Maryland personal injury action is initiated when the plaintiff files a pleading, commonly referred to as the complaint, with the courts.  If the complaint does not conform to the Maryland Rules, it may be dismissed, as in an October 20, 2021 case before the Court of Special Appeals.  The plaintiff brought the appeal after the circuit court dismissed his complaint and denied his motion to file an amended complaint.

The plaintiff in the case was injured while performing his job as a construction worker.  As he was using a bore for the installation of a gas pipeline, the tool caught on his foot.  His foot slipped and went inside the machine, resulting in severe injuries to his foot and a partial amputation.  The plaintiff filed a negligence action against multiple companies and contractors present on the job site, as well as the owner of the property, and sought damages exceeding two million dollars.

The defendants filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the complaint did not comply with the Maryland Rules.  In particular, the defendants argued that the complaint failed to characterize the damages sought as being in excess of $75,000, asserted the same legal conclusions against all of the defendants, and failed to allege any facts establishing the liability of a specific defendant.  The plaintiff opposed the motion and sought to amend the complaint, which the circuit court denied.  The ruling effectively barred the plaintiff’s suit, as any re-filed action would be subject to a statue of limitations defense. 

On appeal, the court agreed that the complaint should have been dismissed, insofar as it did not comply with Md. Rule 2-305, which requires a general statement of damages sought in excess of $75,000, and because the allegations contained in the complaint did not provide a factual basis for the claims asserted against the defendants.  However, the appeals court went on to rule that the circuit court should have given the plaintiff leave to amend the complaint.

Under the Maryland Court Rules, amendments shall be freely allowed when justice so permits.  Moreover, the dismissal of a complaint without leave to amend should occur only in rare situations, such as when it would cause prejudice to the opposing party, undue delay, or if a claim is irreparably flawed such that an amendment would be futile.

The appeals court explained that the flaws in the plaintiff’s complaint appeared to be repairable.  The court also concluded that, insofar as no discovery had occurred in the case, allowing the plaintiff to file an amended complaint five months after the original complaint was filed would not constitute an undue delay, nor had the defendants argued such.  Accordingly, the appeals court reversed the judgment and remanded the case.

At Foran & Foran, P.A., our Maryland accident lawyers represent injured plaintiffs in premises liability and personal injury actions.  We are prepared to address any legal concerns you may have after an accident and explain the options that may be available.  Call our office at (301) 441-2022 or contact us online to schedule an appointment with one of our skilled attorneys.

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