Maryland Plaintiffs Proceed with Wrongful Death Action After Court Holds Statute of Limitations Tolled

In many cases, the law allows for family members to pursue compensation for the death or injury of their loved one by bringing an action against those responsible.  The Court of Appeals of Maryland recently examined a wrongful death action in an opinion issued on May 22, 2017.  The plaintiffs in the case were the mother and the minor son of the decedent.

In 2009, the victim in the case had been shot and killed by the defendant, while he was working as the defendant’s farmhand.  The plaintiffs alleged that the defendant buried the victim’s remains in order to conceal his wrongdoing.  In 2015, the plaintiffs filed their complaint against the defendant.  After the circuit court dismissed their claims as time-barred, the plaintiffs appealed.

A wrongful death action is brought for the benefit of the surviving family members to compensate for the losses occasioned by their family member’s death.  Maryland law provides that the time period for bringing a wrongful death action that accrues on behalf of a minor plaintiff is tolled during the period of minority.  On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that the wrongful death action of the victim’s son was tolled during his period of minority, pursuant to this rule.  The court agreed, holding that the plain language of the rule provided for the tolling of a wrongful death claim until the age of majority, from which time the wrongful death action must be filed within three years.

The plaintiffs also contended that the statute of limitations was tolled because the defendant fraudulently concealed his wrongdoing.  Pursuant to Maryland Rule § 5–203, if knowledge of a cause of action is kept from the plaintiff by the fraud of an adverse party, the cause of action accrues at the time when the plaintiff discovered, or by the exercise of ordinary diligence should have discovered, the fraud.  The court agreed, finding that the allegations in the plaintiffs’ complaint regarding the defendant’s burial of the victim were sufficient to imply fraud.

Ultimately, the court held that the lower court erred in dismissing the minor plaintiff’s wrongful death claims as untimely and in failing to consider that the time limitation to file a wrongful death action is tolled when the defendant engages in fraudulent conduct that prevents the plaintiffs from bringing a wrongful death action within three years from the date of the death.  The plaintiffs were therefore free to continue with their claims against the defendant.

If you have suffered the loss of a family member, you may have legal recourse against the person or entity that caused it.  The Maryland wrongful death attorneys at Foran & Foran, P.A. can provide you with information regarding a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.  We have represented people who have suffered injuries caused by medical negligence, auto accidents, dangerous conditions on property, and the careless acts of others.  To schedule a consultation, call (301) 441-2022 or complete our online contact form.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Court of Special Appeals Sides with Plaintiff Regarding Arbitration of Wrongful Death Claims, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published August 11, 2016

Maryland Court Rules for Plaintiff in Wrongful Death Appeal Regarding Venue, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published April 25, 2017

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