Some personal injury actions are complicated due to the involvement of multiple defendants and competing theories of liability. In an April 3, 2019 Maryland car accident case, the Court of Special Appeals reviewed a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff, which resulted in a judgment against the two defendants.
The plaintiff in the case was injured in a three-car accident. The first defendant owned the vehicle that caused a chain reaction collision. On the night of the accident, the first defendant was socializing at a restaurant bar with a man she had met that night. Believing that she was too intoxicated to drive, she allowed the man to drive her vehicle because she had not seen him consume any drinks. During the drive, the man began driving erratically and at an excessive rate of speed. While being pursued by police, the first defendant’s vehicle struck the median past a traffic intersection and became airborne, traveling over three other cars before crashing into the side of the street.
The plaintiff alleged that, after the first defendant’s vehicle came to a stop, the second defendant’s vehicle suddenly accelerated through the intersection, hit the median, and struck the front driver’s side of her vehicle. Throughout the case, the second defendant maintained that he was rendered unconscious as a result of being hit by the first defendant’s vehicle, and that his incapacitation led him to strike the plaintiff’s vehicle. The plaintiff testified that she could not determine whether the second defendant was unconscious as his vehicle approached hers, nor could she recall how much time had passed after the first defendant crashed and when the second defendant’s vehicle struck her car.
After trial, the jury found both defendants to be negligent, but found that the second defendant’s negligence was excused by his sudden and unforeseen incapacity. The plaintiff was awarded $50,000. The parties filed cross-appeals, arguing several grounds for reversal. One of the issues presented for review was whether the second defendant’s defense of sudden incapacity should have been submitted to the jury.
In Maryland, sudden incapacity may be an affirmative defense against a claim of negligence resulting from a motor vehicle collision. To establish the sudden incapacity, the defendant must show that there was a sudden and unforeseen incapacity that rendered him unable to avoid or prevent the accident causing the injury. An unforeseen incapacity is one that a reasonable person would not have any reason to anticipate.
The appeals court found that there was sufficient evidence to present the issue to the jury. The court pointed to the injuries on top of the defendant’s head and his medical records, which showed that he had suffered a loss of consciousness. The court also noted that the damage to the roof of his car was substantial and consistent with being struck by an airborne vehicle. The court went on to affirm the verdict as determined by the jury.
The Maryland auto injury attorneys at Foran & Foran, P.A. can provide trustworthy advice to people who have been hurt in a car, semi-truck, or motorcycle accident. We also handle a diverse range of other personal injury cases arising out of negligence, including medical malpractice and premises liability actions. To discuss your legal matter with one of our experienced attorneys, call our office at (301) 441-2022 or contact us online and request a free consultation.