Earlier this month, an article by the local Baltimore CBS affiliate was published, indicating that over one weekend in June there were over 80 DUI or DUI-related arrests across the State of Maryland. According to the article, a large percentage of those DUI arrests involved drivers with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of .16 or more, which is twice the legal limit for safe driving in Maryland.

untitled-1108573-mDrunk driving has become such a problem in Maryland that the state police have created a task force, called the State Police Impaired Driving Reduction Effort (SPIDRE) Team. Of the 80 arrests across the State, 13 were made by the SPIDRE team. According to one member of SPIDRE, “Most of the people that we’re coming in contact with now, it’s not the people that get 1 or 2 drinks at dinner, it’s people that this is what they do, this is what they like to do,” referring to driving after consuming several drinks.

In fact, the average blood-alcohol content for a SPIDRE arrest is .17, which is well over the .08 legal limit. According to the CBS article, this is approximately seven or eight drinks for an average-sized man or approximately five drinks for an average-sized woman.

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Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Appeals in West Virginia denied a plaintiff’s appeal in a car accident case that requested a new trial based on the lower court’s failure to allow the plaintiff to submit the responding police officer’s opinion as to which party caused the accident into evidence. In the case, Browning v. Hickman, the court had to consider two alleged errors made below and determine if either was sufficient to grant a new trial to the plaintiff.

The Facts of the Case

to-protect-and-serve-542937-mThe case arose when the two parties were involved in an accident at an intersection. The defendant was traveling straight through the intersection and the plaintiff was making a left turn in front of the defendant when the accident occurred. Both parties claimed to have had the right of way. The plaintiff said he had a green arrow at the time, and the defendant claimed he had a green light.

A witness to the accident called 911, explaining that the plaintiff pulled out in front of the defendant’s car. Police arrived at the scene and, after a brief initial investigation concluded that it was the defendant who failed to yield to the plaintiff. However, that officer later told the attorneys that he wasn’t actually aware of whether the plaintiff did, in fact, have a green arrow.

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Earlier this month, the Court of Appeals of Maryland decided a case that may leave a lasting impression on the State’s medical malpractice law. In the case, Wilcox.v. Orellano, the plaintiff was a woman who was referred to the defendant surgeon for treatment of what she was told was likely to be breast cancer.

hospital-7-230579-mThe defendant surgeon performed a surgery on the plaintiff’s breast. After the surgery, the plaintiff noticed that her breast was swollen and tender. She visited her oncologist who, after seeing the condition of her breast, thought it better not to perform the radiation and prescribed the woman antibiotics in hopes that the infection would subside. She took the antibiotics for some time and then, a few months later, called the defendant surgeon twice about her condition that was not improving. Each time the defendant did not suggest any course of treatment, merely telling her to continue taking the antibiotics.

A few months later, the plaintiff moved to North Carolina and began visiting a new oncologist, who, after performing a series of tests, confirmed that she had the MRSA virus. For the next six months, the woman fought the infection, which required she make daily visits to health care facilities. She ultimately ended up going into surgery to have the affected tissues removed.

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Earlier this month, the Rhode Island Supreme Court decided an interesting case that may factor into how other states handle loss-of-consortium claims brought by parents against the medical professional they claim was responsible for their child’s preventable birth injury. In the case, Ho-Rath v. Rhode Island Hospital, the plaintiffs were the parents of a child born with a debilitating genetic birth defect.

hourglass-3-708451-mThe plaintiffs claimed that the defendants (several doctors and other medical professionals at the hospital where the mother was treated) were negligent in their treatment. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that it was negligent for them not to test the child, prior to her birth, for the genetic disorder that was known to be a possibility, given the family’s history with the disease. The case was brought when their child was 12 years old.

The parents sought compensation on behalf of their minor daughter, but also in their own capacity, seeking compensation for their loss of consortium. A loss of consortium claim seeks compensation for the loss in the enjoyment of another’s company, in this case, the couple’s child.

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Earlier this month in Westover, Maryland, a contractor who was working on an upgrade to the electrical system at Eastern Correctional Institution was killed when he was electrocuted in a tragic workplace accident. According to one local news report, the man was working with another sub-contractor as a part of GE Industrial Solutions when the accident occurred.

electric-fence-warning-1407752-mEvidently, the second-largest prison in Maryland required an upgrade to the electrical control system. However, during the upgrade, something went wrong and both sub-contractors were electrocuted. One man was shocked so badly that he died almost immediately. The other man involved received timely medical treatment and is expected to recover.

The exact cause of the accident is still under investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. A report is expected to be released shortly.

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Earlier this year, the Baltimore Sun published an article lauding the fact that Maryland traffic accidents hit a 66-year low in 2014, with a total of 442 deaths. According to the article, this figure is about half of the highest number of traffic fatalities in one year, which was 772 recorded back in 1968.

financial-crisis-1093355-mThe article points out a number of interesting trends. For example, the following types of accidents are less common than they were several years ago:  drunk driving, speeding, and aggressive driving.

With that said, the report indicates that drunk driving is still responsible for one-third of all fatal Maryland car accidents. Other types of accidents are becoming more common, including:

  • Accidents involving older drivers,
  • Motorcycle accidents,
  • Distracted driving, and
  • Accidents where the victim was not wearing a seat belt.

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Earlier last month in Ireland, a mother filed claims against the doctor who delivered her third child, claiming that the doctor’s “poor performance” caused her child to be born with the incurable disease cerebral palsy. According to one local news source, the woman was admitted to the hospital for the birth of her third child on June 15, 2015.

stethoscope-1-169182-mThat day, during the birth, the mother’s uterus ruptured, and the infant’s heart rate reached dangerously low levels. This necessitated an emergency cesarean section. However, during the delivery process, the child was distressed from the lack of oxygen it was receiving and needed to be put on anti-seizure medicine. This, however, was not told to the mother.

It wasn’t until later when the mother’s sister, who was also a nurse at the hospital, asked about the course of treatment that it was discovered the doctor did not order hypothermic, or “cooling,” treatment for the baby. This alarmed the baby’s aunt, who was aware that there is research suggesting that cooling therapy goes a long way to help prevent permanent and irreversible damage in children who are deprived of oxygen at birth.

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Protests in Baltimore continued last week despite the Mayor’s recent announcement that he will be enforcing a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew throughout the city. According to a recent article published by NPR, police responded to last week’s events with smoke and flash grenades. It is not clear how many people were injured by police in the riots so far.

police-squad-1-501818-mOf course, the impetus for the crowds in the streets of Baltimore was the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, a black male who after being arrested by police mysteriously suffered a serious spinal injury that eventually claimed his life.

Police Violence and Citizen’s Rights

There may be no more apt time than the present to discuss the rights of citizens to remain free from violent police actions, given the recent events in Baltimore. Generally speaking, police must act within the dictates of the law and may not use more force than necessary to effectuate a lawful arrest. Once an arrest is made, police are not permitted to “rough up” or otherwise harm someone who is in their custody. Indeed, this is what was so upsetting about the Freddie Gray situation.

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The father and guardian ad litem for a child born with severe brain damage has brought a suit in Multnomah County Circuit Court against the hospital system that delivered his daughter. According to a courthouse news source, the father is claiming that his daughter’s seizure disorder and brain damage was a result of the medical negligence of the medical professionals who assisted in the labor and delivery. The complaint alleges that, given his wife’s past deliveries, her labor should have been more closely monitored, and that failure resulted in his daughter’s condition.

baby-feet-1439528-mIn 2010, the mother and father of the child went to St. Vincent Hospital to give birth to their daughter. Kaiser and Providence contracted with St. Vincent’s Hospital to use their services for labor, delivery, and newborn care. This particular child was born with the assistance of Kaiser’s medical staff.

The mother of the child delivered her other child via a Cesarean. However, for this birth the doctor and the mother agreed that they would attempt a vaginal birth before a Cesarean. The couple’s daughter was born after 12 hours of labor, and she was unfortunately found to have been suffering from the effects of the loss of oxygen to her brain. It was alleged that the loss of oxygen during labor was not detected by the hospital staff, and as a result the child suffered permanent brain injuries.

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In a recent case in front of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the court refused to hold an employer liable for an employee’s criminal actions that took place while the employee was off duty. This was the court’s refusal to expand the Maryland state-law doctrine of “respondeat superior.”

great-fire-802961-mThe Facts of the Case

Several years ago, approximately 30 homes were allegedly set on fire by an employee of the Social Security Administration. The homeowners grouped together and decided to sue the Social Security Administration for their losses, arguing that the Administration, as the employer of the person who allegedly committed the acts, was at least in part liable for their losses. Since the named defendant was a federal entity, the case was filed in federal court.

The evidence submitted suggested that all the criminal acts took place while the employee was off duty. However, there was some suggestion that some of the planning for the crimes took place while the man was at work for the Social Security Administration.

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