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Maryland Court Affirms $350,000 Award to Plaintiff for Injuries from Metal Screw in Her Food

Non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, may be awarded in a Maryland personal injury lawsuit to compensate injured plaintiffs and their families for intangible losses.  Damages for pain and suffering, although not easily quantified by a dollar amount, can rest on the credibility of the plaintiff’s testimony, as in a January 6, 2021, personal injury case.  After the jury in the case awarded $350,000 to the plaintiff for non-economic damages, the defendant filed a motion to reduce the judgment.  The trial court denied the motion, and the defendant appealed the matter to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

The plaintiff in the case was dining at a restaurant owned by the defendant.  As she was eating a nacho appetizer, she bit into an industrial metal screw that had separated from the machine in the kitchen that tosses tortilla chips.  The pain was immediate and searing.  She incurred injuries to the upper left part of her mouth that required two root canals and three crowns.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury suit against the defendant, seeking damages to compensate her for her medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.  The defendant conceded that it owed the plaintiff a duty of care and that it had breached this duty.  Before trial, the plaintiff withdrew her claims for past medical expenses and lost wages, leaving non-economic damages as the only component of her requested damages.  The sole issues for the jury, therefore, were whether the screw proximately caused the plaintiff’s injuries, and if so, the amount, if any, of non-economic damages to award the plaintiff.  After a three-day trial, the jury returned a verdict of $350,000.

One of the defendant’s arguments on appeal was that the trial court erred by failing to consider its motion to revise the judgment by remittitur, or in the alternative, grant a new trial.  A remittitur is a ruling by the judge to reduce an excessive verdict for damages awarded by the jury.  In Maryland, both the granting of remittitur and a new trial based on an alleged excessive verdict for damages are matters of discretion for the trial judge.  In its opinion, the appeals court explained that trial courts are generally better suited than appellate courts to distinguish awards that are outliers from those that “shock the conscience.”

After reviewing the record, the appeals court noted that the trial court had sat through a three-day trial in which it was able to observe the testimony of the witnesses, and the parties had fully briefed the post-judgment motions filed by the defendant.  Finding no error by the trial court in denying remittitur, the appeals court went on to uphold the full amount of the jury award for the plaintiff.

If you are seeking legal counsel for a Maryland personal injury accident, the plaintiff’s attorneys at Foran & Foran, P.A. can assist you.  We represent negligence victims and their families in injury cases, medical malpractice actions, premises liability suits, motor vehicle accident claims, and more.  Schedule a free consultation to discuss your situation with an experienced lawyer by calling (301) 441-2022 or contacting Foran & Foran online.

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