Pedestrians who are hit by motor vehicles can suffer serious injuries, often requiring expensive medical care for months or even years into the future.  In a May 9, 2017 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a car accident case involving a plaintiff who was struck by a vehicle.  The plaintiff filed negligence actions against the owner of the vehicle and the driver.  Since the plaintiff alleged the driver was uninsured, the Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund/Uninsured Division was allowed to intervene in the action.backache

After the trial, the court found the driver, as the operator of the vehicle, liable for negligently striking the plaintiff as a pedestrian.  The court granted judgment in favor of the owner of the vehicle at the close of the plaintiff’s case, finding no agency relationship between the owner and the driver.  The circuit court awarded no damages, concluding that the plaintiff’s evidence of lost wages was legally insufficient, and there was no evidence that the plaintiff’s medical bills were fair, reasonable, and necessary.  The plaintiff brought the current appeal.

The plaintiff’s medical records and bills were admitted into evidence pursuant to the streamlined procedures permitted by Md. Code § 10-104.  Under that rule, as long as the health care provider’s opinion was adequately expressed in the written report, it would be considered without any supporting witness testimony from the health care provider.  As a result, plaintiffs may establish causation by submitting the proper records.  However, the appeals court explained that the mere admission of such records could not, by itself, function as proof of causation by a preponderance of the evidence.

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In many car accident cases, insurance companies become involved in the litigation, either in defending claims against their insureds or against themselves.  In a May 1, 2017 decision, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland examined whether summary judgment was proper after misrepresentations made by the defendants’ insurance company caused the plaintiff to file his lawsuit outside the statute of limitations.car crash

The action arose out of a car accident in which two of the defendants rear-ended the plaintiff’s vehicle.  The two defendants and a third roommate lived together and were all insured through the same automobile insurance company.  The roommate was not in the car at the time of the accident.  However, following the accident, the insurance company contacted the plaintiff and identified the roommate as the insured party.

During subsequent communications with the plaintiff’s counsel, the insurance company acknowledged liability and paid for the plaintiff’s property damage claims under the roommate’s policy.  When the plaintiff was unable to resolve his injury claim with the insurance company, he filed suit against the roommate.  It was at this time that in-house counsel for the insurance company disclosed to the plaintiff that the actual driver was not the roommate.  The plaintiff immediately filed an amended complaint against the two defendants, but the statute of limitations had already expired.

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Businesses, as well as individuals, can be held accountable by law for injuries caused by their negligence.  In a March 22, 2017 decision, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a personal injury case involving the plaintiff’s exposure to lead pursuant to a study conducted by the defendant.  Some of the claims against the defendant were dismissed by the lower court before trial, and a jury found in favor of the defendant on all of the remaining claims.  The plaintiff brought an appeal, arguing several grounds for reversal.old paint

The defendant’s study, conducted from 1993 to 1999, was funded by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grants that were provided to evaluate and reduce lead-based paint hazards in housing.  The study involved research on the effectiveness of lead abatement measures in reducing lead contamination in homes, measured by the blood lead levels of minor children living in the homes that were part of the study.

A property group that, at the time, owned and managed approximately 200 low-income rental units in Baltimore City agreed to provide houses to be used for the study.  The plaintiff’s mother lived in one of the units and had signed a consent form that allowed the plaintiff (with whom she was pregnant at the time) to participate in the study.  Before the study commenced, the unit had tested positive for lead-based paint.  The defendant and property group paid for lead remediation work to be completed in the unit, which was intended to reduce but not completely remove all of the exposure to lead.  The unit did, however, pass Maryland’s post-abatement clearance standards at the time.  The plaintiff’s blood lead level rose steadily from when he was 11 months to three and a half years old while living in the unit and participating in the study.

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In many personal injury cases, procedural rules may require the plaintiff to produce specific types of evidence to prove his or her legal claim.  In an opinion released on April 17, 2017, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered whether the plaintiffs could proceed with their negligence claims against an amusement park on the theory of res ipsa loquitur.  The plaintiffs were injured on a river ride during a visit to the defendant’s amusement park in 2011.  The incident occurred after a raft on the ride became stuck for an unknown reason and collided with the raft occupied by the plaintiffs.  The matter was brought on appeal after the circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant.amusement park

Res ipsa loquitur allows a plaintiff to present a prima facie case when direct evidence of the cause of an accident is not available or is available solely to the defendant, and circumstantial evidence permits the jury to infer that the defendant’s negligence was the cause.  Under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, the factfinder may draw an inference of negligence if the plaintiff proves three elements:  (1) the plaintiff suffered an injury that does not ordinarily occur absent negligence; (2) the injury was caused by an instrumentality exclusively in the defendant’s control; and (3) the injury was not caused by any act or omission by the plaintiff.  Typically, the common knowledge of jurors is sufficient to support an inference or finding of negligence on the part of a defendant.  However, in some cases, expert testimony is required to establish negligence and causation.

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Injuries that are caused by the careless actions of more than one person may give rise to legal recourse against multiple defendants.  In a March 17, 2017 wrongful death decision, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered whether the county was liable for the death of a two-year old child in foster care.  The plaintiff filed the appeal after the circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the county.blinds

In 2007, as a result of the county’s determination that the child was in need of assistance, the circuit court ordered that he be placed in a foster home.  At the foster home, the child’s room had a window covered with venetian blinds, which were controlled by two single-tassel cords.  Although the blind cords were usually hung on a nail at the top of the window, the child became entangled in the blind cords and subsequently died from strangulation in 2009.  The biological mother of the child filed a wrongful death action against the county for failing to properly supervise and protect the child.  The circuit court ruled that the facts did not give rise to a common law or statutory duty that the county owed to the child.

In Maryland, a negligence action requires a plaintiff to establish four elements:  a duty owed by the defendant, a breach of that duty, a causal relationship between the breach and the harm suffered, and damages.  Generally, government entities do not owe a tort duty to the world at-large.  A government entity can be liable in tort, however, if it takes an affirmative step to create a duty.  That duty can be created in two ways:  (1) legally, by adopting a statute; or (2) factually, by creating a special relationship.

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Lead-based paint injuries are common in Maryland, and they often result in litigation against negligent landlords and property owners. In an April 5, 2017 decision, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a lower court’s order granting summary judgment on the plaintiff’s personal injury claim against several property owners. The plaintiff in the case brought suit against the defendants for damages allegedly caused by exposure to lead-based paint while visiting or residing at properties they owned from 1992 to 2007. The defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff failed to adduce sufficient evidence that their property substantially contributed to his elevated blood levels. After the circuit court granted their motion, the plaintiff appealed.hands

At the time of the plaintiff’s birth through the first seven months of his life, the plaintiff and his family lived in property with chipped paint around the walls and windows, and they regularly visited another property in the same condition. Testing subsequently conducted during the lawsuit revealed that the two properties contained lead-based paint. When the plaintiff was almost three years old, he attended daycare at a property owned by the defendants, which contained chipping and peeling paint. Subsequent testing also indicated the presence of lead-based paint. The plaintiff visited the defendants’ property regularly for approximately two years. At some point, while he was still attending the daycare, he moved to another property, which contained chipping and peeling paint, but he was never tested for lead.

In Maryland, when a plaintiff alleges negligence based on a violation of a lead-based paint law, he must prove that there was a violation of the law and that the violation caused his injuries. Causation requires that the plaintiff present either direct or circumstantial evidence showing that (1) the defendant’s property was a source of the plaintiff’s lead exposure, (2) the exposure contributed to the plaintiff’s elevated blood lead levels, and (3) the plaintiff’s elevated blood lead levels substantially contributed to the injuries allegedly suffered by the plaintiff. In the case at hand, the plaintiff relied on circumstantial evidence to establish his claim. Accordingly, he had the burden to produce circumstantial evidence that, if believed, would rule out other reasonably probable sources of lead.

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It is not uncommon for an injured plaintiff to bring a medical malpractice claim against more than one defendant on differing theories of negligence.  In a March 21, 2017 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a negligence and wrongful death action brought by the surviving plaintiffs against a doctor, the hospital that employed the doctor, and the member companies of the hospital.  The circuit court subsequently granted summary judgment in favor of the member companies.  On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that its claims against the member companies should have been allowed to proceed under theories of general corporate negligence and apparent agency.heartbeat

The decedent in the case had experienced severe chest pain and was examined by the defendant doctor at the hospital.  On the next day, the doctor discharged the decedent with instructions to take medications as needed and follow up with a cardiology referral for further investigation of his condition.  On the next morning, the decedent passed away.  An autopsy revealed that he died from hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, with significant blockages in several arteries in his heart.

The plaintiffs first argued that the member companies were liable because they breached their duty to provide emergency room protocols for the evaluation and treatment of emergency room patients with cardiac or cardiac-like symptoms.  However, the appeals court pointed out that such a legal duty would be upon the hospital to ensure the patient’s safety and well-being, rather than its parent corporations, i.e., the defendants.  Furthermore, a parent corporation is generally not liable for the acts of its subsidiaries, absent the piercing of the corporate veil to prevent fraud or to enforce equity.

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The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed an interesting medical malpractice case on March 17, 2017 concerning a botched appendectomy.  The plaintiff in the case alleged that her doctor failed to completely remove her appendix when he performed the surgery.  She brought suit against the doctor for negligence and breach of contract.  After the circuit court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss her breach of contract claim, the plaintiff appealed to the higher court.chest-xray-1526779-639x626-300x294

In October of 2011, the plaintiff went to the hospital complaining of abdominal pain.  The defendant diagnosed her with acute appendicitis and recommended that she undergo a laparoscopic appendectomy to remove her appendix.  In performing the surgery, the defendant removed most of the plaintiff’s appendix, but left the “stump” in place.  The plaintiff alleged that by leaving a portion of the appendix in her body, she experienced severe pain and required an additional surgical procedure that she had performed by another doctor.  She argued that the defendant was liable for breach of contract because he had a contractual obligation to perform an appendectomy, which is the removal of the appendix, not a portion of the appendix.

In Maryland, the failure of a physician to exercise reasonable care and medical skill, i.e., medical negligence, is generally not governed by contract law, despite the contractual nature of the doctor-patient relationship.  Rather, to establish a breach of contract claim where the facts relate to a physician’s performance of a medical procedure, the plaintiff must show that the physician made an additional promise or warranty that is separate and apart from the physician’s agreement to properly perform the procedure.  The legal rationale for not imposing any contractual liability on the physician is that, when considering the unpredictability of medical results and the differences in individual patients, it would be unlikely that the physician could in good faith promise a particular outcome.  Therefore, absent unique circumstances, medical malpractice cases are typically viewed under negligence law and not determined by the laws of contract.

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In Maryland, a medical malpractice action must be filed against a health care provider within a certain time period, or it may be dismissed.  In a February 22, 2017 decision, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a negligence claim filed by the plaintiff against her podiatrist, which had been dismissed by the circuit court as barred by the statute of limitations.x-ray-foot-1435088-640x480-300x225

In 2010, the defendant operated on the plaintiff to correct pain in her right foot by placing a screw near her second toe.  After several follow-up visits in which the plaintiff complained of continued pain, the defendant performed a second surgery to remove the screw.  When the plaintiff’s condition did not improve by June of 2011, the defendant referred her to another doctor.  The second doctor diagnosed her with a bunion deformity that could require a third surgery and significant recovery period.  In August of 2014, the plaintiff filed a medical negligence claim against the defendant.  The circuit court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, ruling that the statute of limitations on the plaintiff’s claim began to run in June of 2011.

In Maryland, a civil action for damages against a health care provider must be filed within the earlier of five years from the time the injury was committed, or three years of the date the injury was discovered.  Under the discovery rule, the statute of limitations begins to run when the wrong is discovered, or when it should have been discovered with due diligence.  Under the latter alternative, awareness is implied from knowledge of circumstances which should put a person of ordinary caution on notice.

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A negligence claim can arise out of any number of circumstances, including accidents that occur on the property of individuals or businesses due to their carelessness.  These are specifically known as premises liability claims.  In a relevant decision issued on February 23, 2017, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed whether a lower court properly granted summary judgment against the plaintiff on his premises liability claim against a hospital.snow

In 2007, the plaintiff had visited the hospital to participate in a sleep study.  Early the next morning, the plaintiff left the hospital and walked toward the bus stop.  The plaintiff noticed that the sidewalk outside the hospital was wet with sleet, ice, and mud, but he proceeded to walk through it.  He eventually reached a section of the sidewalk where, beneath the mud and slush, two concrete slabs were joined together unevenly.  Unaware of the differential, the plaintiff tripped over the elevated slabs and fell, suffering a fractured leg and a broken ankle.

The plaintiff brought suit against the hospital, alleging that it had negligently breached its duty to exercise ordinary and reasonable care in maintaining the hospital grounds.  The hospital contended that, although it maintained the area of the sidewalk on which the plaintiff fell, it didn’t own it or owe a duty to the plaintiff.  The trial court held that since the hospital did not own the sidewalk at issue, it owed no duty of care to the plaintiff that would render it liable for his injuries.  On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the hospital’s admission that it maintained the sidewalk created an issue of fact regarding its ownership.  The appeals court disagreed, explaining that the hospital did not waive the issue or concede ownership of the sidewalk when it answered the plaintiff’s interrogatory.

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