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Many Maryland personal injury cases involving car crashes and slip-and-fall accidents raise issues that most jurors have experience within their own lives. However, in Maryland medical malpractice cases and claims involving a dangerous or defective product, there are often complex scientific or medical issues that are beyond the average juror’s expertise. In these cases, the court may allow both parties to call an expert witness.

Under Maryland Rule 5-702, the court may allow expert witness testimony, “if the court determines that the testimony will assist the trier of fact in understanding the evidence or in determining a fact in issue.” If allowed to testify, an expert can provide their opinion regarding issues within their expertise to help the jury understand concepts that may otherwise be confusing.

Before a court allows a party to call an expert witness, the court considers three factors:

A common question in many Maryland product liability lawsuits in which parties in the chain of distribution can be liable for an injury caused by a dangerous or defective product. Over the past decade, online retail has exploded in popularity. In the first quarter of 2019, online retail accounted for over ten percent of all retail sales. Much of these sales come from online retailers such as Amazon.com.

Recently, courts have begun to see cases in which plaintiffs seek to hold major online retailers accountable for injuries caused by dangerous or defective products sold on the company’s website. A recent federal appellate decision is the most recent case on the subject.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was walking her dog on a retractable leash when her dog lunged, breaking the D-ring on the dog’s collar. The leash snapped back, hitting the plaintiff in the face. As a result, the plaintiff ended up being blind in her left eye. The plaintiff purchased the collar on the Amazon.com (“Amazon”), and filed a product liability lawsuit against Amazon.

Many car accidents result in injury to one or more of the drivers or passengers involved in the accident. However, few accidents are more likely to cause serious injury or death than Maryland pedestrian accidents. Indeed, over the past five years, there has been an average of 3,227 Maryland pedestrian accidents each year, resulting in over 2,800 injuries and 110 fatalities annually.

Contrary to what many believe, in most accidents involving pedestrians, the pedestrian is not at fault. More often, it is the motorist whose negligence causes the accident. Below are some interesting facts according to official Maryland government statistics:

  • 30% of pedestrian accidents resulting in injury occur while the pedestrian is crossing at a marked crosswalk.

Over the past decade, Amazon.com (Amazon) has become a household name that many Maryland families rely on to purchase a wide variety of items. The question often comes up whether online retailers like Amazon can be held liable for dangerous products that it sells, and if so, under what theory of liability. A recent federal appellate decision provides some clarity on the issue.

According to the court’s version of the facts, the plaintiffs ordered a hoverboard from Amazon’s website. The hoverboard was not sold or marketed by Amazon. However, at some point, Amazon received reports that the battery packs in many hoverboards – including those sold on its website – were faulty and could suddenly ignite, potentially causing fires.

Amazon decided to issue a warning to its customers who had purchased hoverboards. The notice stated: “There have been news reports of safety issues involving products like the one you purchased that contain rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. As a precaution, we want to share with you some additional information about lithium-ion batteries and safety tips for using products that contain them.”

When an accident victim wants to initiate a Maryland personal injury case, they must file a complaint. A complaint is a legal document that commences a lawsuit. In Maryland, a complaint must contain the legal justification for the plaintiff’s claim, including the essential facts and legal justification for what the plaintiff requests. Additionally, Maryland law requires that a plaintiff identify each party by name, rather than file the claim against a “John Doe” defendant.

One of the most important aspects of the complaint is the legal justification for the plaintiff’s claim, including the statement of facts that support the plaintiff’s justification. While the federal system allows for the more relaxed form of notice-pleading, Maryland is a fact-pleading jurisdiction. In Maryland, a plaintiff must present a “simple, concise, and direct” explanation of their claim.

If a plaintiff fails to properly plead their complaint, the defendant can move to dismiss the case. A recent case illustrates the importance of correctly pleading a case.

All Maryland landowners owe a duty to those whom they invite onto their property. The extent of the duty owed to guests depends on the relationship between the parties. Maryland business owners owe the highest duty to their customers and other visitors who are on their property to conduct business. If a company fails to provide for the safety of its customers, it may be held liable for any injuries through a Maryland premises liability lawsuit. A recent state appellate decision discusses the duty business owners owe to their customers.

The case arose when the plaintiff was injured while shopping for a gift at a large exposition center. Evidently, the center required shoppers obtain a security badge and go through a security gate before entering. The plaintiff and her husband were issued a security badge and were approaching the security gate when the plaintiff tripped and fell on a rubber mat that was underneath the security desk. The plaintiff later testified that she did not see the mat before her fall.

A security guard that worked for a company that was hired to provide security services for the expo center was sitting at the desk when the plaintiff fell. The guard testified that she saw the plaintiff approach with a limp, but did not see her fall. Photographs taken shortly after the plaintiff’s fall showed that the rubber mat was slightly curled up at the edges.

When an accident victim files a Maryland personal injury case, the plaintiff must present some evidence of the injuries they sustained to satisfy the “damages” element of their claim. If a plaintiff cannot prove that they sustained damages, the court will dismiss the plaintiff’s claim, even if the defendant admits that they were negligent in causing the accident.

Typically, a plaintiff will present evidence from either a treating physician or a physician who was seen for the specific purpose of obtaining a medical opinion for the case. Of course, the defendant may be skeptical about the plaintiff’s claimed injuries, and they may seek to obtain an independent medical examination (IME) of the plaintiff. Like it or not, if the court orders an IME, a plaintiff must attend and cooperate with the examination. A recent case illustrates the consequences a plaintiff may face if he or she fails to cooperate with a court-ordered IME.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff, a railroad worker, was injured when he slipped after stepping in a puddle of oil. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against his employer under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act and was deposed shortly afterward. The defendant requested an IME, which the plaintiff contested, arguing that it was scheduled too far from his home. The court ordered the plaintiff to attend the IME, but it required the defendant to pay for the plaintiff’s mileage.

Maryland is known to have some of the harshest laws when it comes to determining which accident victims are able to recover for their injuries. Under Maryland’s contributory negligence rule, plaintiffs who are found to have even the slightest role in causing an accident or bringing about their own injuries are completely precluded from recovering for their injuries. That being said, there are some situations where Maryland law protects an accident victim’s ability to recover for their injuries.

One of the situations where an accident victim’s “negligence” cannot be used to defeat their claim against a defendant is when, at the time of the injury, the plaintiff was not wearing safety equipment that could potentially have reduced the plaintiff’s injuries. For example, a defendant may attempt to argue that a plaintiff’s failure to wear a motorcycle helmet or seat belt in a Maryland traffic accident was evidence of the plaintiff’s negligence. However, in these circumstances, Maryland courts have held this evidence is inadmissible. A recent state appellate decision helps explain the rationale behind this rule.

In that case, the plaintiff was helping the defendant cut down some trees on the defendant’s property. The agreement between the two men was that the plaintiff would use a chain saw to cut the trees and the defendant would watch out for any potential hazards. However, as the plaintiff was using the chainsaw to take down a tree, a dead limb came loose and fell on his head, resulting in serious injuries.

Each year, thousands of employees are injured in Maryland workplace accidents. While a Maryland workers’ compensation claim may be an injured worker’s sole remedy in some cases, that is not the case when a non-employer third party is responsible for the worker’s injuries. Thus, being able to identify a third party who was responsible for a worker’s injuries may allow an injured worker to pursue a Maryland personal injury case in addition to a workers’ compensation claim.

Product liability claims are common in Maryland third-party workplace accident cases because the dangerous or defective nature of a product rarely implicates an employer’s negligence. A recent case illustrates the type of situation in which an employee may be able to pursue a product liability claim after being injured on the job.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was performing electrical work on a construction site while standing atop a 12-foot ladder. As the plaintiff was working, an air conditioning unit that was anchored into the concrete ceiling came loose, striking the plaintiff. The plaintiff fell off the ladder, landing on the ground. As a result of the fall, the plaintiff sustained serious injuries.

While all personal injury cases are subject to certain procedural rules, the rules that apply to medical malpractice cases are perhaps the strictest. For example, Maryland medical malpractice cases are subject to strict timelines and require plaintiffs to provide an expert affidavit explaining that the plaintiff’s claim has merit.

Because Maryland medical malpractice cases are subject to strict rules, there is often litigation as to whether a plaintiff’s claim is being brought under a theory of medical malpractice or if it is a claim of simple negligence. In almost all cases, the plaintiff will claim that the case is one of simple negligence, while the defendant will argue the case involves a claim of medical malpractice. If a defendant can convince the court that the plaintiff’s claim is one of medical malpractice, it may be too late for the plaintiff to comply with the procedural requirements, thereby defeating the claim entirely.

While the specific factors used by the courts to resolve these disputes are complex, the determination essentially comes down to whether the plaintiff is making a claim of professional negligence and, if so, whether the claims present issues that are beyond the common understanding of most jurors. A recent opinion illustrates that it is not always easy to determine whether a case is brought under a theory of medical malpractice or traditional negligence.

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