Pedestrians can suffer serious and life-long injuries in Maryland car accidents, even when traveling at a low speed. In an October 3, 2017 case, a plaintiff was struck by a car as she walked from the parking lot toward the entrance of a grocery store, resulting in a broken knee. On the night of the accident, it was dark and rainy, and the plaintiff was wearing black clothes and carrying a black umbrella. She walked toward the crosswalk after looking both ways, and she was then struck by a car. The plaintiff subsequently brought a Maryland negligence claim against the driver of the vehicle.
The case went to trial, and although the jury found both parties negligent, it also found that the defendant had the last clear chance to avoid the injury and awarded the plaintiff damages for her medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. The defendant moved the court to enter a judgment in favor of him, notwithstanding the jury verdict. The trial court granted the motion, finding the evidence on the issue of last clear chance was insufficient, and the plaintiff appealed to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.
On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the trial court erred in granting a judgment for the defendant because the evidence was sufficient to find that the defendant had failed to avail himself of the last clear chance to avoid the collision, and secondly, the contributory negligence instruction was erroneous and prejudicial. The court first explained that the doctrine of last clear chance generally requires a sequential, fresh opportunity for the defendant to avoid the plaintiff’s injury. While the court admitted it strained to find evidence of such a fresh opportunity, it did not definitively answer the question, choosing instead to focus on the dispositive issue of contributory negligence.
In Maryland, contributory negligence is neglect of the duty imposed upon all people to observe ordinary care for their own safety. Only when no reasonable minds could differ on the issue of contributory negligence is a trial court justified in deciding the issue.
At the trial, the jury was instructed on contributory negligence. The jury was also instructed that the violation of a statute that causes the plaintiff’s injuries is evidence of negligence. The trial court then read several statutes regarding lawful pedestrian use of crosswalks, including one that prohibited a pedestrian from crossing an intersection diagonally. On appeal, the plaintiff contended that the instruction was prejudicial because at no point had she crossed a roadway intersection or done so diagonally. The appeals court agreed, ruling that the evidence in the case did not clearly establish that, as a matter of law, the plaintiff failed to observe ordinary care for her own safety. Holding that the question should have been submitted to the jury, the court reversed the verdict entered for the defendant and remanded the matter for a new trial.
If you have been hurt in an accident caused by another person or business, you may be able to bring a personal injury claim in court. At Foran & Foran, our Maryland injury lawyers represent plaintiffs in negligence actions to help them pursue compensation for their medical bills and lost wages. We handle car accident cases, slip and fall claims, and many other cases. Contact Foran & Foran at (301) 441-2022 or via our online form and schedule your free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
Maryland Plaintiff Wins on Appeal in Slip and Fall Case Against Convenience Store, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published June 5, 2016
Pedestrian Hit by Car Sues Driver for Negligence in Maryland Personal Injury Case, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published August 8, 2017