Maryland Court Reviews Appeal in Car Accident Case

The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland recently ruled on an appeal in a personal injury case that arose out of a car accident. In Chaffman v. Estrada-Bernales (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Nov. 17, 2015), the plaintiff and his wife were stopped at a red light when the defendant’s vehicle rear-ended their SUV. The day after the accident, the plaintiff experienced stiffness in his right side, neck, and lower back and visited his primary care physician, who referred him to a chiropractor. After four to six weeks of chiropractic treatment, the plaintiff was referred to a pain management specialist and also underwent a surgical procedure to alleviate the pain. The plaintiff filed suit against the defendant, alleging that the plaintiff had sustained severe and permanent injuries as a result of the accident.

The plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment against the defendant, arguing that since the defendant failed to answer the plaintiff’s request for admissions, its contents were deemed admitted. The defendant then filed an opposition to the motion and provided the plaintiff with a response to his request for admissions. The trial court ruled that the defendant had breached a duty of care owed to the plaintiff but left the issue of damages to the jury. After trial, the jury found that the plaintiff was not injured in the accident and awarded no damages. The plaintiff appealed the verdict, contending that the judge erred by not granting his motion for summary judgment on the issue of causation and damages when the defendant failed to timely answer the request for admissions, and by not allowing the plaintiff to rebut a misleading closing argument made by the defendant’s counsel.

Pursuant to Maryland rules, each matter of which an admission is requested shall be deemed admitted unless a timely response is filed. However, on appeal, the court noted that the purpose of the rule is to avoid the necessity of preparing and proving an undisputed matter at trial. Since the defendant’s 14 day-late response was inadvertent, concerned matters that were very much in dispute, and did not prejudice the plaintiff, the court found that the trial court did not err in refusing to deem them as admitted.

Maryland follows the majority rule that evidence of insurance on the part of a defendant is generally inadmissible. In Chaffman, the court of special appeals held that the comment by the defendant’s counsel in closing arguments regarding insurance was ambiguous and did not affect the jury’s ruling. In addition, the plaintiff did not suffer any risk of prejudice, since the primary danger in admitting evidence of insurance is that the jury will award a smaller amount to the victim. However, since the jury found that the plaintiff was not injured, this risk was unfounded. The court therefore affirmed the jury verdict.

If you have been injured in a car accident caused by a negligent driver, you may be able to pursue compensation for your medical expenses, lost income, and other damages. The personal injury attorneys at Foran & Foran have experience representing accident victims in a variety of cases, including auto accidents, motorcycle accidents, truck accidents, premises liability, medical malpractice, and more. To discuss your claim with one of our attorneys, call us at (301) 441-2022 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Court Rules in Favor of Insurance Company in Car Accident Settlement Case, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published July 30, 2015

Court of Appeals of Maryland Finds Underinsured Motorist Policy Applicable in Single Vehicle Car Accident Settlement Case, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published July 15, 2015

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