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Maryland Court Reviews Fraud Allegations in Car Accident Case

Motor vehicle accidents involving pedestrians can result in serious personal injuries to the more vulnerable people who are on foot.  If a Maryland pedestrian accident was caused by a careless driver, the person on foot may be able to recover damages for medical expenses and other losses in a negligence action.  The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland recently issued an October 14, 2020 opinion in an unusual car accident case.

The plaintiffs in the case filed a personal injury action against the defendant, alleging that the defendant had injured them by negligently striking them with her vehicle.  More specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that the defendant was making a left turn and struck the plaintiffs in the middle of a marked crosswalk on the street, knocking them to the ground and injuring them.

The defendant, in turn, argued that her vehicle never made contact with the plaintiffs.  The defendant further claimed that the plaintiffs were already injured before they entered the crosswalk and had laid down in the road as her vehicle approached them.  At trial, a witness testified that she saw the plaintiffs standing on the sidewalk prior to the incident and noticed that their faces were bloody.  The witness went on to testify that the plaintiffs had laid down in the street before the defendant had even approached. Following trial, the jury found in favor of the defendant.

The plaintiffs appealed, arguing that it was improper for the trial court to allow the defendant to present evidence that their claim was fraudulent, when the defendant had not pled the affirmative defense of fraud in her answer.  Essentially, the plaintiffs argued that the defendant had waived the fraud defense by failing to raise it in the pleadings.

The Maryland Rules of Civil Procedure set forth the general requirement that a party must specifically admit or deny the allegations of a complaint.  For a tort action, however, a party may answer by generally denying liability, as the defendant did in the case.

The appeals court found that, pursuant to the defendant’s general denial in her answer, she could properly assert at trial that the plaintiffs were injured before she entered the intersection, and therefore did not cause their alleged injuries.  The court explained that although fraud is an affirmative defense that must be specifically pleaded, it involves detrimental reliance by another party on a false representation.  In the instant case, the court found that the alleged misrepresentations of the plaintiffs and the lack of causation defense presented by the defendant at trial were unrelated to the fraud defense.  The court therefore affirmed the verdict for the defendant.

If you are seeking legal representation following a motor vehicle collision or injury, the personal injury attorneys at Foran & Foran, P.A. can help.  We can provide trustworthy advice to victims of careless drivers and discuss potential legal options after an accident.  Our dedicated team handles medical malpractice, premises liability, auto accidents, and many other personal injuries.  Schedule a free consultation by calling our office at (301) 441-2022 or contacting Foran & Foran online.

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