Maryland Court Reverses Summary Judgment, Enabling Plaintiff to Advance Lead Exposure Case

Failing to follow procedural rules and deadlines set in a court case can result in serious consequences, including dismissal.  In a November 9, 2017 Maryland lead paint case before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, the plaintiff sought to reverse a summary judgment entered by the trial court on her negligence claim, stemming from a missed discovery deadline.

In the case, the plaintiff alleged that she had been poisoned by lead-based paint while living in a property owned and managed by the defendants.  The plaintiff had identified an expert witness to testify regarding his opinion that the defendant’s property contained lead-based paint and that the plaintiff’s exposure to that lead-based paint caused her injuries.  The plaintiff had also obtained a report from an environmental testing company that found lead in the defendant’s property, but the report wasn’t completed and produced until 14 days after the discovery period closed.

The defendants moved to strike the report from evidence as untimely, and to strike the expert’s testimony on the ground that he lacked a sufficient factual basis for his opinion, i.e., the report.  The trial court granted the motions to strike.  The defendants then moved for summary judgment, based on the lack of expert testimony.  The trial court granted the motion, denying the plaintiff any recovery for her injuries.  The plaintiff then brought an appeal.

On appeal, the court explained that a court must consider six factors before imposing sanctions for discovery violations, such as excluding evidence:  whether the violation was technical or substantive, the timing of the disclosure, the reason for the untimely submission, the degree of prejudice suffered by the defendant, whether any prejudice might be cured by extending the deadlines, and the possibility of a continuance. The court must also consider the good-faith effort of the plaintiff to comply with the scheduling order.

The court reviewed the circumstances of the case and found no lack of good faith on the part of the plaintiff in untimely filing the report. While the court agreed that the plaintiff’s failure to request an extension warranted a sanction, the exclusion of the report effectively ended the case for the plaintiff. Without it, there was no way for the plaintiff to establish direct evidence of lead in the defendant’s property. Given the severity of the sanction, therefore, and without any evidence of egregious misconduct on the part of the plaintiff or a deliberate attempt to prevent the defendants from presenting a defense, the appeals court held that the trial court’s decision to exclude the report completely, without considering any alternatives, was an abuse of discretion. The decision to strike the report was reversed, and the matter was remanded back to the trial court for consideration.

Lead paint cases should be handled by a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer.  At the Maryland firm of Foran & Foran, P.A., our experienced attorneys have the dedication and trial skill needed to litigate a premises liability action, a wrongful death claim, or any other injury case arising out of negligence.  Contact Foran & Foran by phone at (301) 441-2022 or online to schedule an appointment with one of our legal professionals.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Court Allows Plaintiff to Proceed in Lead Paint Lawsuit Against Property Owner, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published August 20, 2016

Plaintiff Wins Appeal in Maryland Lead Paint Case, Summary Judgment Reversed, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published October 4, 2015

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