In some situations, an employer may be liable for a personal injury caused by one of its employees within the scope of their employment.  This type of negligence suit is based on a theory of vicarious liability.  In a March 3, 2021 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a case involving an alleged battery that occurred at a bar.  The plaintiff claimed that the owner of the bar was liable for her injuries, which she alleged were inflicted by one of its employees.  The matter came before the court on an appeal filed by the plaintiff following a jury verdict in favor of the defendant.

The plaintiff in the case was attending a New Year’s Eve party with some friends at a bar operated by the defendant.  She had been a customer of the bar for several years and knew many of the employees.  One of the people she recognized as an employee approached her and grabbed her arm, causing her to fall to the ground.  The plaintiff suffered ankle injuries as a result of the fall.

The plaintiff sued the bar for her injuries, alleging that the person who grabbed her was an employee, agent, or servant of the bar and was acting within the scope and during the course of his employment.  The defendant, however, claimed that it had fired the person identified by the plaintiff approximately seven months before the incident.  After a three-day trial, the jury determined that the person was an employee of the bar on the date in question, but that his actions were not within the scope of his employment.  The jury ultimately found the defendant not liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.

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To defeat a motion for summary judgment in a personal injury suit, the plaintiff must show sufficient evidence exists to support their claim.  In a February 1, 2021 opinion, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland considered a summary judgment motion filed by the defendants in a personal injury case.  The plaintiffs in the case brought their Maryland negligence claim in federal court against the owners of a restaurant after allegedly suffering injuries in a slip and fall accident.

The plaintiffs in the case visited a Maryland restaurant known for having peanuts on the floor.  Complimentary peanuts were served during all hours of operation, and customers were permitted to discard peanut shells on the floor of the restaurant.  While waiting to be seated, the plaintiffs made their way to the restrooms.  Before reaching the restroom, the plaintiff fell on the hardwood flooring and landed on her right hip, with her right foot twisted behind her.  The plaintiff testified that she had oily stains on the right side of her clothing, leading her to believe that she fell in peanut oil.

In their suit, the plaintiffs claimed that the restaurant was negligent by failing to protect her from a dangerous condition that allegedly caused her injuries.  To succeed on their Maryland negligence claim, the plaintiffs must establish: (1) that the defendant was under a duty to protect the plaintiff from injury, (2) that the defendant breached that duty, (3) that the plaintiff suffered actual injury or loss, and (4) that the loss or injury proximately resulted from the defendant’s breach of duty.  Insofar as the plaintiff was a business invitee, the restaurant was required to use reasonable care to protect the plaintiff from from injury caused by an unreasonable risk that she would be unlikely to perceive in the exercise of ordinary care for her own safety, and about which the restaurant knows or could have discovered.  

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In a negligence lawsuit, the testimony of an expert witness may be crucial to provide evidence supporting or refuting the allegations.  A qualified expert may testify as to the standard of care, causation, damages, and/or other elements of the claim.  In a February 2, 2021 Maryland personal injury case, the Court of Special Appeals considered whether the opinion testimony of an expert was properly allowed by the trial court.  The appeal was brought by the defendant after a jury awarded damages to the plaintiff resulting from his exposure to lead paint.

The plaintiff in the case had resided in a property owned by the defendant from his birth in December of 1991 to March of 1993.  The plaintiff claimed that as a result of his exposure to chipping, lead-based paint at the property, he suffered permanent cognitive deficits.  The plaintiff further alleged that the defendant’s negligence in failing to remove the lead-based paint from the property was a substantial contributing factor in causing his injuries.

At trial, the plaintiff presented testimony from multiple expert witnesses, including an expert in the field of lead-based paint detection, a clinical psychologist, a neurodevelopment pediatrician and a vocational rehabilitation consultant.  The jury ultimately returned a verdict finding that the defendant was negligent and awarded the plaintiff nearly $885,000 in future noneconomic damages and past damages.

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Property owners generally have a duty to exercise care to protect invitees from dangerous conditions on the premises.  In a January 28, 2021 Maryland wrongful death case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland explained the circumstances under which a property owner may be held liable for the criminal acts of a third party.

The lawsuit was brought by the estates of two teenagers who were shot and killed by an unknown assailant while standing outside of an apartment building owned by the defendant.  Prior to the teens’ deaths, the defendant had known of prior violent crimes occurring outside of the apartment buildings, common areas, and parking areas.  The plaintiffs claimed that in light of the history of crime at the apartment complex, the defendant was negligent in failing to take sufficient security measures to protect them from criminal activity at the complex.  After the circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, the plaintiffs appealed.

In a negligence action in Maryland, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving that the defendant was under a duty to protect the plaintiff from injury, that the defendant breached that duty, and that the plaintiff suffered actual injury or loss as a proximate result of the defendant’s breach of that duty.

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A Maryland medical malpractice claim based on the lack of informed consent can be complicated in some cases, particularly when the patient is a minor.  In a February 1, 2021 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland analyzed the duty of healthcare professionals and the doctrine of informed consent in Maryland.

The sixteen-year-old plaintiff in the case had been diagnosed with early-onset preeclampsia during the second trimester of her pregnancy.  The medical team met with the plaintiff and her mother to discuss the treatment options, which included terminating the pregnancy, inducing labor for vaginal delivery, or cesarean section.  Although her doctors continued to recommend a cesarean section for the wellbeing of the fetus, the plaintiff repeatedly confirmed her decision to avoid the procedure.  In addition, the plaintiff signed two consent forms explicitly declining a cesarean section with the understanding that inducing vaginal delivery would impose additional stress on the fetus and that the infant would have a better chance of survival if a cesarean section was performed.  Following induced vaginal labor, the baby was born with severe mental and physical disabilities that require life-long dependent and medical care.

The plaintiff filed suit against the hospital, claiming that the hospital had violated her right to informed consent with respect to her delivery options.  The jury found in favor of the plaintiff and awarded damages of approximately 230 million dollars.  The hospital appealed on the grounds that the evidence was insufficient to support the jury’s findings on the issue of breach of informed consent.

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Non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, may be awarded in a Maryland personal injury lawsuit to compensate injured plaintiffs and their families for intangible losses.  Damages for pain and suffering, although not easily quantified by a dollar amount, can rest on the credibility of the plaintiff’s testimony, as in a January 6, 2021, personal injury case.  After the jury in the case awarded $350,000 to the plaintiff for non-economic damages, the defendant filed a motion to reduce the judgment.  The trial court denied the motion, and the defendant appealed the matter to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

The plaintiff in the case was dining at a restaurant owned by the defendant.  As she was eating a nacho appetizer, she bit into an industrial metal screw that had separated from the machine in the kitchen that tosses tortilla chips.  The pain was immediate and searing.  She incurred injuries to the upper left part of her mouth that required two root canals and three crowns.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury suit against the defendant, seeking damages to compensate her for her medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.  The defendant conceded that it owed the plaintiff a duty of care and that it had breached this duty.  Before trial, the plaintiff withdrew her claims for past medical expenses and lost wages, leaving non-economic damages as the only component of her requested damages.  The sole issues for the jury, therefore, were whether the screw proximately caused the plaintiff’s injuries, and if so, the amount, if any, of non-economic damages to award the plaintiff.  After a three-day trial, the jury returned a verdict of $350,000.

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To establish a personal injury claim, the plaintiff must prove each element of the cause of action.  In a January 19, 2021, Maryland car accident case, the only element at issue was the matter of damages suffered by the plaintiff.  Although the defendant had admitted his negligence in causing the collision, the plaintiff was nevertheless required to prove her injuries and damages flowing from the accident.  After the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff but awarded no damages, the plaintiff appealed, and the matter came before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

The plaintiff in the case was stopped at an intersection when the defendant collided into the rear of her vehicle.  The defendant admitted that he had taken his eyes off the road and apologized to the plaintiff.  The plaintiff did not seek medical attention at the time of the accident.  The next morning, however, the plaintiff felt that her body was starting to stiffen up.  She went to see an orthopedic surgeon who had previously treated her for a neck condition.  Her surgeon concluded that the plaintiff’s injuries were consistent with whiplash.  Over the next two years, the plaintiff continued to seek medical treatment for cervical and lumbar strains.

At trial, the sole issue was the amount of damages, if any, suffered by the plaintiff.  The plaintiff presented witness testimony from her doctors and parents.  She did not introduce any of her medical bills into evidence, relying purely on testimony to establish her damages.  After a brief deliberation, the jury returned a verdict awarding the plaintiff zero damages.

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In some cases, Maryland trip and fall accidents may be caused by building design defects, negligent contractors, or careless property owners.  A person injured by a dangerous condition on real property may seek damages from the allegedly negligent or liable party in a personal injury suit, as in a recent case before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.  In its January 6, 2021 opinion, the court considered an appeal filed by the plaintiff after a jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant on her negligence claim.

The plaintiff in the case was working at a model home in Maryland.  As she was leaving the property, she fell on the exterior front steps.  She testified that she stepped down with her right foot onto the first step, then moved her left foot without realizing there was a second step.  In her suit against the landscaping company and concrete contractor, the plaintiff claimed that the steps did not comply with the relevant building code requirements.

Prior to trial, the concrete contractor filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that although it had poured the concrete for the front stoop of the property, it was not involved in the design or installation of the brick steps and walkway.  The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiff’s negligence claims proceeded solely against the landscaping company.  After a three-day trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant.

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For young children, lead-based paint exposure can result in long-term injuries.  In a December 21, 2020 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a personal injury case brought by a plaintiff against a property owner.  The plaintiff alleged that the defendants were negligent in maintaining the property, which caused the plaintiff’s exposure to lead and subsequent injuries related to that exposure.  After a jury returned a $1.7 million dollar verdict in favor of the plaintiff in the Maryland personal injury case, the defendants filed the instant appeal.

The plaintiff in the case had lived with his mother and siblings at the defendants’ property from September of 1996 to February of 1998.  During his childhood, the plaintiff was tested for the presence of lead in his blood on numerous occasions.  After living at the defendants’ property for approximately one year, a blood test revealed that the plaintiff had elevated levels of lead in his blood.  The plaintiff sued the defendants after he reached the age of majority, alleging negligence and other claims.  The plaintiff succeeded on his negligence claim against the defendants, and the jury awarded him $1,725,936.00 in economic damages.

On appeal, one of the arguments asserted by the defendants was that the trial court erred by improperly allowing evidence of Housing Code violations and instructing the jury that such violations established a prima facie case of negligence.  The defendants contended that the evidence was irrelevant and prejudicial.

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Under Maryland laws, a business owner has a duty to exercise ordinary care to keep their property safe for customers.  In turn, each customer has a corresponding duty to exercise care for their own safety.  In some negligence cases, the assumption of risk may be a factor in determining the liability of the business owner.  In a December 16, 2020 the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered whether the jury was properly instructed on the issue of open and obvious dangers and the assumption of risk.  The suit was filed by the plaintiff on behalf of her minor son, after he suffered a slip and fall injury at an amusement park operated by the defendant.

The minor in the case was ten years old at the time of the accident.  During his visit to the defendant’s amusement park, he was injured after he fell while crossing a wet wooden pedestrian bridge near a water ride.  The minor’s mother brought suit, alleging that the defendant allowed water from the ride to accumulate on the wooden walkway, which the defendant knew or should have known created a dangerous slipping hazard.  The defendant argued that the wet and slippery condition of the bridge was open and obvious, and therefore, it had no duty to warn or cure the alleged dangerous condition.

After the close of evidence at trial, the defendant requested that the court present its open and obvious defense to the jury on the verdict sheet.  The trial court denied the motion, and the jury was asked to determine four issues: whether the defendant was negligent, whether the minor was contributorily negligent, whether the minor had assumed the risk, and damages.  The jury ultimately found that the defendant was negligent and awarded $45,000 in damages to the plaintiff.

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