Commercial and heavy-duty trucks can cause severe damage when they are involved in accidents with cars and smaller motor vehicles. In a July 2, 2021 Maryland injury case, the plaintiff alleged that she suffered substantial personal injuries and damages after colliding with a garbage truck. She brought a negligence action against the driver, the owner of the truck, and the operator of the trucking company that employed the driver. The case was on appeal before the Maryland Court of Special Appeals following a jury verdict in favor of the defendants.
The plaintiff in the case was driving her grandson to elementary school, traveling northbound. On the same road, a southbound garbage truck was attempting to turn across the northbound lane and onto a side street. The plaintiff testified at trial that the driver of the garbage truck failed to yield to her, and that she was unable to avoid hitting the back of the truck as it turned across her lane of traffic. The driver testified that he crossed the road when the plaintiff was approximately a quarter mile away, and that he believed the plaintiff was speeding and appeared distracted.
At the start of trial, the plaintiff moved to preclude the defendants’ expert from testifying. The court denied the motion and allowed the expert to testify that in his opinion, if the plaintiff was driving 45 mph, she would have had ample time to see the truck and stop to avoid a collision. After the jury found in favor of the defendants, the plaintiff appealed on grounds that the disclosure of the expert’s opinion was untimely.
In Maryland, scheduling orders are generally required in civil cases. When a scheduling order violation involves discovery, the trial court has wide discretion to determine what sanction, if any, is appropriate. In reviewing whether the trial court abused its discretion, multiple factors are considered, including the timing of, and reason for, the late disclosure, whether any prejudice to the parties might be cured by a postponement, and if so, the desirability of a continuance.
Although the defendants had timely disclosed the identity of the expert witness, they had failed to provide a summary of the expert’s opinion by the scheduling order deadline. The appeals court noted that the plaintiff could have objected before the deadline to resolve discovery disputes. By waiting three days before trial to object, however, not only was the plaintiff’s motion filed late, but it also left the trial court with no option to address the defendant’s violation with a less severe sanction. The appeals court ultimately held that the lower court did not err by declining to take up the discovery dispute or failing to sanction the defendants by excluding their expert.
If you were injured by a negligent driver, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses and other losses. At Foran & Foran, P.A., our Maryland personal injury lawyers can assist with negligence cases arising out of auto accidents, medical malpractice, slip and fall injuries, and more. Request a free consultation by calling our office at (301) 441-2022 or contacting us online.