In a recent car accident case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a jury verdict returned in favor of the defendant. In Lewin v. Balakhani (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Aug. 17, 2016), the defendant was stopped over the median line with the intention of making a left-hand turn. The oncoming plaintiff swerved to avoid a collision with the defendant’s vehicle but hit a vehicle that was parallel-parked on the shoulder of the road. The plaintiff brought a negligence claim against the defendant, alleging that her violation of the left-hand turn statute was the proximate cause of the accident. After a trial, the jury considered the evidence and found that the defendant was not negligent. The judge subsequently denied the plaintiff’s motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, and the plaintiff appealed.
On appeal, the court explained that the violation of a statute alone will not support an action for damages, unless there is legally sufficient evidence to show that the violation was a proximate cause of the injury complained of. Instead, the plaintiff must introduce evidence to afford a reasonable basis for the conclusion that it is more likely than not that the conduct of the defendant was a substantial factor in bringing about the injury. In Lewin, although the plaintiff presented evidence that the defendant violated a traffic law, the defendant rebutted with evidence that her conduct did not cause the subsequent collision that occurred between the plaintiff and the parked vehicle. In addition, a witness testified that he did not see the plaintiff attempting to stop before the collision. As a result, the court ruled that the evidence was sufficient for the trial court to properly deny the plaintiff’s post-judgment motions.
The second issue on appeal concerned a high-low agreement between the parties. A high-low agreement is a contract in which a defendant agrees to pay a plaintiff a minimum amount in return for the plaintiff’s agreement to accept no more than a maximum amount, regardless of the outcome of a trial. In Lewin, during the pre-trial conference, counsel for the parties orally agreed to the damages amount awarded to the plaintiff, contingent upon liability to be determined by the jury. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the agreement was not binding because the parties did not sign a document to memorialize the terms of any agreement. The appeals court found that, even assuming that the circuit court erred with regard to the agreement, it was harmless because the jury never reached the issue of contributory negligence. The appeals court thus declined to reverse the judgment.
If you or a family member have been hurt in a car accident, you may be able to pursue compensation for your injuries from the negligent driver. The dedicated personal injury attorneys at Foran & Foran have substantial experience representing Maryland clients in cases involving auto accidents, slip and falls, medical malpractice, and other negligence claims. To learn more about your legal options following an accident, contact Foran & Foran at (301) 441-2022 or online and schedule a consultation with one of our skilled injury lawyers.
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Maryland Court Rules in Favor of Insureds, Awards Underinsured Motorist Coverage in Moped and Motor Scooter Cases, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published December 14, 2015
Maryland Court Orders Insurance Company to Cover Loss for Wrongful Death Claims Arising Out of Car Accident, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published August 17, 2016