Maryland Plaintiffs Seek to Uphold 6.5 Million Dollar Jury Verdict in Personal Injury Case on Appeal

An individual who has suffered an injury caused by negligence may have legal recourse against the liable party, as illustrated in an August 17, 2018 case.  The plaintiff in the case was inside a retail store when a motorist lost control of his car and crashed through the fire doors of the building.  The plaintiff suffered serious injuries in the accident, which resulted in the amputation of his leg.  Thereafter, the plaintiffs filed a Maryland negligence claim against the corporate owner of the nationwide store chain, arguing that it failed to take reasonable steps to protect customers against the foreseeable risk of vehicle-building crashes.  After trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff and awarded approximately 6.5 million in damages.

The defendant appealed to the Court of Special Appeals on several grounds, one of which was that the plaintiffs asserted facts that were not in evidence while cross-examining the defendant’s witnesses.  During discovery, the plaintiffs had obtained information from the defendant regarding three prior vehicle-into-building crashes that had occurred at the defendant’s other store locations between 2008 and 2013.  The plaintiff questioned the defendant’s corporate representative about those incidents, as well as a dozen other incidents the plaintiff had discovered.

In general, questions that assume facts that are not supported by evidence already admitted are objectionable.  The appeals court explained that the admissibility of the plaintiff’s questions regarding the prior vehicle-into-building crashes depended on whether these incidents had actually occurred.  Without any proof in evidence verifying that the incidents had occurred, the incidents were not relevant to the case, and therefore, were inadmissible.

The appeals court went on to address the images used by the plaintiff during the cross-examination of the defendant’s expert.  When the expert testified that it was not possible to install bollards at the store at issue, the plaintiff presented images of some of the defendant’s other, similarly designed stores with bollards in front of the doors.  The plaintiffs’ subsequent questions assumed that the images fairly and accurately depicted the conditions at the defendant’s other store locations at another relevant time.  However, the plaintiffs did not introduce any evidence to authenticate the images, or show that they depicted what the plaintiffs claimed.  The court found that because the purpose of the images was to provide substantive proof that the defendant could and did install bollards where the defendant’s expert said they could not be installed, the images must be authenticated and submitted into evidence.

Under the circumstances presented, the court concluded that the errors were prejudicial, in that they likely affected the jury’s verdict.  The court explained that the jury could not have ignored references to more than a dozen vehicle-into-building accidents at the defendant’s stores within the five years before the plaintiff suffered his injuries, nor the digital images that undermined the expert’s opinion.  The court therefore reversed the verdict, noting that on remand, the plaintiffs could use the images and prior accidents at issue once the proper foundation was laid.

At Foran & Foran, our Maryland premises liability lawyers can advise negligence victims of their legal recourse after an accident.  We have successfully represented plaintiffs in lawsuits arising from slip and fall incidents, medical malpractice, truck and automobile collisions, and many other personal injury cases.  Request your free consultation by calling our office at (301) 441-2022 or completing the contact form on our website.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Plaintiff Wins on Appeal in Slip and Fall Case Against Convenience Store, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published June 5, 2016

Maryland Court of Appeals Rules Medical Records Were Properly Disclosed to Jury in Car Accident Case, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published May 8, 2018