Earlier this month, an appellate court in California issued a written opinion in a personal injury lawsuit filed by a woman who was seriously injured when she was run over by a horse during a race in which she was participating. The case is important for Maryland personal injury plaintiffs because it acts as a warning, illustrating how defendants may attempt to evade liability through the doctrine of assumption of the risk.

Horse RacingThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was participating in a horse race spanning either 25 or 50 miles, depending on the rider’s preference. During the race, riders were to stop at checkpoints to obtain playing cards indicating that they did indeed make their way around the predetermined circuit.

At approximately the eight-mile mark, the plaintiff was in the leading group of riders. The plaintiff dismounted her horse to obtain the playing card, as per the race rules. However, as she did so, the defendant’s horse ran into a nearby cluster of other horses, causing a chain-reaction accident. Several of the horses were startled and took off running. The plaintiff was injured when she was trampled by one of the horses.

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Participation in sports comes with a number of benefits, including camaraderie, athleticism, and socialization. However, sports can also be dangerous, especially when the proper precautions are not taken. Generally, the school association or professional league overseeing the sport is responsible for ensuring players are reasonably safe as they participate.

TackledOn occasion, however, a league or school administration fails to take adequate precautions to guard against player injuries. Alternatively, the players may not be properly warned of the dangers involved in participating in the sporting activity, or parental consent may not be obtained prior to a student’s participation. In these situations, anyone injured as a result of their participation in the sporting activity may be entitled to compensation though a Maryland personal injury lawsuit.

Research Study Finds CTE More Common Than Originally Believed

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative brain disease that is found in those who suffer repeated blows to the head. Symptoms of CTE include depression, anxiety, substance abuse, memory loss, cognitive impairment, and suicidal thoughts or actions. Over the past few years, researchers have linked CTE to participation in professional football. However, until recently, it was not understood how common CTE was among players.

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Maryland premises liability lawsuits are often centered around the relationship between the parties. For example, land and business owners owe a greater duty of care to those whom they invite onto their property than those who gain entry by accident or through trespassing. Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a slip-and-fall case brought by a tenant in a condominium complex against the condo association and the property management company. The court ultimately dismissed the case against the defendants because no landlord-tenant relationship could be shown, illustrating the importance of naming the proper parties in a Maryland premises liability lawsuit.

Dark StaircaseThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was living in a condo that she rented from the owner. The plaintiff had an oral lease with the owner; no written lease existed. While living in the condo, the plaintiff complained to the condo association several times about the lack of lighting near a specific set of stairs; however, the association took no action. One day, the plaintiff slipped and fell while descending the stairs. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit, naming both the condominium association and the property management company responsible for the complex’s maintenance.

The defendants argued that the plaintiff should not be entitled to recover compensation because she was aware of the hazard that ultimately caused her fall. In response, the plaintiff cited the “necessity rule,” which allows for recovery even when an accident is caused by a known hazard if the tenant must cross the hazard by necessity. The trial court agreed with the plaintiff, and the defendants’ motion for summary judgment was denied. The defendants then appealed to a higher court.

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Insurance companies can be one of the biggest roadblocks to a Maryland car accident victim receiving the compensation they deserve. Earlier this month, an appellate court in Rhode Island issued an interesting opinion in a car accident case involving the question of whether the plaintiff was “occupying” the insured vehicle at the time he was struck by a passing motorist. The court ultimately concluded that the plaintiff was occupying the vehicle and that the insurance company covering that vehicle should not have denied his claim.

Deployed Air BagThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the passenger in a car driver by her then-boyfriend. The two had just pulled up to a grocery store and were talking in the car before getting out to enter the store. As the two were talking, they heard two cars collide on an adjacent road.

The plaintiff got out of the car and approached the accident scene. As she walked behind one of the cars to get its license plate information, another vehicle came down the road, crashing into the two cars that were just involved in the accident. The plaintiff was injured as a result of this second accident.

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Last month, an appellate court in Rhode Island issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit that was brought by a tenant of an apartment complex who slipped and fell on a patch of black ice in the complex parking lot. At the conclusion of the plaintiff’s case against the complex’s management company, before the case was presented to the jury, the trial judge granted the defendant’s motion for judgment as a matter of law. The appellate court was tasked with determining whether the trial judge was proper to decide the case as a matter of law rather than submit the case to a jury for a factual resolution of the plaintiff’s claim.

Winter RoadThe Appellate Court’s Decision

In the above case, the appellate court determined that the lower court was improper to decide the case as a matter of law. The court explained that there was evidence presented by the plaintiff indicating that the defendant may have been negligent. Specifically, the plaintiff testified that the defendant would plow any fallen snow in the parking lot to an area that was slightly above the level of the parking lot. Thus, when the snow melted, water would run onto the parking lot, where it could later re-freeze, creating a hazard. Indeed, the plaintiff also presented evidence, through his wife’s testimony, that he had complained about these ice patches on numerous occasions.

Judgment as a Matter of Law in Maryland Courts

In Maryland personal injury cases, it is the judge’s job to rule on all legal issues. For example, a judge will often determine which evidence the jury is able to consider and instruct the jury on the law that pertains to the case. The jury’s job is to then apply the law as explained by the judge to the facts of the case, resolving any factual disputes.

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Over the last century, the development of modern medicine has resulted in not just a decrease in the mortality rate of infants but also in the ability to determine whether an unborn child will suffer from a serious, life-altering abnormality. Through diligent testing and a thorough analysis of a couple’s medical history, doctors are now able to advise parents about which, if any, conditions their offspring may be at risk of developing.

Baby's HandGiven the advances made in the medical field and the current ability to intervene to avoid the birth of a child who will suffer from a debilitating, life-long incurable disease, the duty physicians owe to their patients has grown to include advising patients about their specific risks. If a physician fails to advise a patient of these risks, and the patient gives birth to a child with a serious disease that would have been detectable through proper testing, a wrongful birth lawsuit may be appropriate. A recent case illustrates what a wrongful birth case is and how a plaintiff can go about proving one.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were a couple who gave birth to a child with severe disabilities. During the pregnancy, an ultrasound was conducted that displayed congenital abnormalities; however, the plaintiffs’ doctor failed to inform the plaintiffs about these defects. The plaintiffs claimed that they would have chosen to terminate the pregnancy had they been made aware of the risks involved with carrying the pregnancy full-term.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Colorado issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit that was brought by the parents of a young girl who was seriously injured while playing in her school’s playground. Ultimately, the court concluded that the zip-line on which the girl was playing did not constitute a “dangerous condition” and upheld the school’s governmental immunity.

Zip LineThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs’ daughter was playing on a zip-line in her school’s playground when she fell from the apparatus and fractured her wrist and forearm. There was a sign next to the zip-line stating “adult supervision required”; however, it was not clear if there was a school employee nearby when the accident occurred. After their daughter recovered, the parents filed a premises liability lawsuit against the school.

Initially, the school asked the court to dismiss the case, arguing that under state law, the school was entitled to government immunity. However, the plaintiffs argued that under the same state law, immunity is not proper when a government is responsible for a “dangerous condition” that is on public property. Thus, the question for the court was whether the zip-line constituted a dangerous condition.

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Anyone who has spent a few hours watching old courtroom T.V. dramas likely remembers the climactic moments when – after a long, drawn-out trial – one of the parties presents a surprise witness that completely makes their case. Well, in reality, surprise witnesses are for the most part a thing of the past, due to the current discovery rules.

CourtroomDuring the pre-trial discovery phase of a trial, both parties are required to present the other party with a list of witnesses they intend to call. While adjustments can be made along the way, courts generally frown upon presenting a “surprise” witness unless certain circumstances are present. A recent case illustrates how a medical malpractice plaintiff was prevented from having one of his witnesses testify because he failed to disclose her identity during discovery.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was paralyzed after he underwent a surgery that was performed by the defendant doctor. The plaintiff filed this medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor, claiming that the doctor’s negligence resulted in his paralysis.

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Last month, an appellate court in nearby West Virginia issued a written opinion in a dog bite case that required the court to determine if the local county government could be held liable for the plaintiff’s loss of a loved one based on a government employee’s failure to act. Ultimately, the court concluded that a special relationship was created by the plaintiff’s repeated efforts to notify the city of the dangerous dogs. Thus, the court permitted the plaintiff’s case to proceed.

Dog's EyesThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the surviving loved one of a man who had died after being viciously attacked by several dogs belonging to a neighbor. Prior to the death of her husband, the plaintiff had expressed her concern about the dogs by calling 911 and speaking with the county’s dog warden. The plaintiff explained that she thought the dogs were dangerous and that something should be done. The dog warden told the plaintiff that “the county would take care of it.”

On a separate occasion, the dog warden traveled to the dogs’ owner’s home. When the warden pulled into the driveway, one of the dogs approached the car and jumped on the hood. The dog warden reported being frightened to the point where she would not exit the vehicle. She later cited the dog’s owner for failing to keep the dog restrained.

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Earlier this month, the Maryland Court of Appeals issued an opinion in a case that was brought by the surviving family members of a man who was killed while working as a ranch-hand for the defendant. The case gave the court the opportunity to discuss when a defendant’s potentially fraudulent actions can result in the tolling of a statute of limitations in a wrongful death lawsuit filed well after the allowable time. Ultimately, the court determined that the plaintiff’s allegations that the defendant buried their loved one’s body in an attempt to cover up his own wrongdoing was sufficient to survive a summary judgement challenge by the defense.

CountrysideThe Facts of the Case

As noted above, the plaintiffs were the surviving loved ones of a man who was killed by the defendant while he was working as a ranch-hand. The facts of the actual killing are not detailed in the opinion; however, the plaintiffs later alleged that in 2009, the defendant was responsible for the wrongful death of their loved one. At the time of his father’s death, the ranch-hand’s son was a minor. While this situation may have also resulted in criminal charges, this case was focused solely on the civil case brought by the deceased ranch-hand’s family.

In 2015, the mother of the ranch-hand, as well as his son, filed a wrongful death action against the defendant. In their court filing, they claimed that the defendant buried the body of the ranch-hand in order to conceal any wrongdoing. The plaintiff claimed that this is what prevented them from filing the case within the statute of limitations, which was three years. The lower court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiffs appealed.

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