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aggressive dogBy and large, dogs are loyal companions and when well-trained present little danger to those whom they come into contact with while out in public. However, each year hundreds of people are bitten or attacked by a dog. For the most part, these Maryland dog bite injuries are the result of irresponsible dog owners who fail to provide their pets with the necessary care or supervision. However, some dogs are naturally more aggressive and may attack passersby without warning.

As a general rule, a dog owner can only be held liable for injuries caused by their animal if they knew or had reason to know that the animal was dangerous. Historically, Maryland applied the “one bite” rule, meaning that an owner was only presumed to know of a dog’s propensity for violence if the dog had bitten (or attempted to bite) someone in the past. However, in 2014 the Maryland legislature changed the state’s dog-bite liability statute.

Currently, Maryland employs a strict liability framework when determining if an owner can be held liable for injuries caused by their dog. This means that a dog bite victim will not need to establish that the owner was negligent in any way or knew of their dog’s propensity for violence. Under Maryland Code § 3-1901(a), evidence that a dog attacked another person creates a “rebuttable presumption that the owner knew or should have known that the dog had vicious or dangerous propensities.” Thus, under § 3-1901, an owner will be presumed to be liable for the injuries caused by their animals unless the owner can provide evidence that they did not know of the dog’s dangerous propensities.

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construction loaderEarlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case brought by a man whose finger was severed while working with a construction loader. The lawsuit was filed against the company that leased the loader to his employer and required the court to determine whether a construction loader is a dangerous instrumentality. Ultimately, the court concluded that the defendant lessor could be liable under that state’s vicarious liability laws because the loader was a dangerous instrumentality. If you have sustained an accident on a construction site, contact a Maryland construction accident attorney.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was contracted to help clear a vacant lot of debris. The lot’s owner leased a construction loader from the defendant equipment company to assist the plaintiff and his team by clearing the lot.

Evidently, at one point the plaintiff climbed inside the loader to pack down loose debris. While the plaintiff was inside, another employee used the loader to pick up and deposit a large tree stump. As the stump came into the loader, it crushed the plaintiff’s finger.

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empty mugWhen someone is injured in a Maryland DUI accident, it is conceivable that there are multiple liable parties. Of course, the motorist who was driving drunk is the most obvious party; however, it would seem logical that the individual or establishment that overserved the intoxicated driver also bears some responsibility.

The concept of holding third parties liable for a negligent driver’s actions is not unheard of, and courts impose third-party liability all the time in cases involving a negligent employee. In fact, many states also impose third-party liability in the drunk-driving context through statutes known as dram-shop and social-host liability laws. At the heart of both of these claims is the concept that a person – either acting in their individual capacity or in their capacity as an employee for a bar or restaurant – should know that overserving alcohol to a customer puts others in danger.

In Maryland, however, courts have rejected both dram-shop and social-host liability claims. As recently as 2013, the Court of Appeals of Maryland heard a dram-shop case, issuing an opinion including a lengthy discussion of the societal and legal considerations of a court adopting such a doctrine.

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police stopRecently, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a car accident case raising an important issue that comes up regularly in Maryland personal injury cases that are filed against a government agency or official. Specifically, the case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss whether a police officer’s actions were considered a discretionary act. Ultimately, the court determined that the officer’s actions were not covered under discretionary-act immunity, and permitted the plaintiff’s case to proceed against the city.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured after his vehicle was struck by a police cruiser that was responding to an emergency call. According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the police cruiser made a left turn against a red traffic signal, colliding with the plaintiff’s vehicle. It was agreed that the officer would not have been able to see oncoming traffic as he approached the intersection, but it was disputed whether the officer’s lights and sirens were on at the time he entered the intersection.

The plaintiff subsequently brought a personal injury claim against the city that employed the officer, arguing that the city was vicariously liable for the officer’s negligent actions. The city successfully argued to the trial court that it was entitled to government immunity because the officer was engaged in a discretionary act that was within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident. The plaintiff appealed.

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ladder accidentRecently, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing whether a casino could be held liable for the injuries sustained by an independent contractor when he fell from a ladder while working on the building’s roof. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to show that the defendant casino was in “operational control” over the plaintiff’s actions.

The case raises an important issue that frequently arises in many Maryland personal injury cases involving claims filed by independent contractors or claims based on an independent contractor’s negligence.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff worked for a maintenance company that was contracted by the defendant casino to clean the casino’s air ducts. The air ducts were located on the roof of the casino, and prior to the beginning of the contract the casino specified where the maintenance workers would access the roof.

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product liabilityRecently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing an important issue that frequently comes up in Maryland product liability cases involving defective or unsafe food products. The case required the court to determine the appropriate standard by which a plaintiff’s food-poisoning case is held to at the summary judgment level. Ultimately, the court concluded that food-poisoning cases are no different from any other type of negligence case, and plaintiffs bringing this type of case should not be held to a higher burden. If you believe you’ve experienced an injury as a result of a defect in some mass-produced product, it’s beneficial to have a Maryland products liability attorney at your side to evaluate your case.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were two wedding guests who became very ill after eating the food at a wedding rehearsal dinner that was catered by the defendant restaurant. In support of their claim, the plaintiffs presented evidence showing that one of the plaintiffs tested positive for salmonella, that other wedding guests also tested positive for salmonella, that other guests began feeling ill around the same time as the plaintiffs, and that a total of 16-20 other guests reported eventually feeling ill.

The defendant restaurant moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiffs were unable to establish that their illness was caused by the defendant’s food. In support of its position, the restaurant argued that the plaintiffs ate food that was prepared by others around the same time that they consumed the defendant’s food, that the plaintiffs did not experience any symptoms until three days after they ate the food, and that there were many other wedding guests who ate the food but did not become ill.

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parking lotAs a general rule, the law requires that all land owners maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition, and warn their guests about hazards that may not be evident. Under Maryland premises liability law, the duty a landowner owes her guest depends on several circumstances; however, Maryland businesses owe their customers the highest duty of care.

While premises liability law may seem straightforward, it can often get complicated in its application. For example, while it’s beyond question that a business owner is responsible to maintain their store in a reasonably safe condition, what about the approach to and from the store?

A recent state appellate opinion discusses a plaintiff’s case against a store for an injury occurring in the store’s parking lot.

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highwayThe Maryland Tort Claims Act (MTCA) allows for certain Maryland personal injury cases to be filed against the state and local governments. However, under the MTCA, cases that name government employees or agencies as defendants are subject to additional procedural requirements.

Under Maryland Code section 12-106, an injury victim must first file a claim with the State Treasurer before they can proceed with a personal injury case. Additionally, the following requirements must be met:

  • The claim must be filed within one year of the incident and must provide the basis for the claim;
  • The claim must be denied by the Treasurer; and
  • Any subsequent personal injury case must be filed within three years of the date of the accident.

In the event that a claimant fails to comply with these requirements, the court may still hear the case unless the state can establish that it has been prejudiced as a result of the plaintiff’s failure to submit a claim.

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product liabilityEarlier this month, the Federal Court of Appeal for the Fifth Circuit issued a written opinion in a personal injury lawsuit affirming a jury’s verdict in favor of the plaintiff. The case presents important issues for Maryland accident victims in that it illustrates the “failure to warn” theory of product liability.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a crane operator who worked in a whip yard. One day, the plaintiff was working to move the bow of a ship with several other cranes in what is called a “tandem lift” involving multiple cranes.  The lift began as planned, but at some point during the process, two of the cranes began to separate from one another.

As the cranes separated, the stack of counterweights on the crane being operated by the plaintiff began to shift. This caused one of the 18,000-pound counterweights to crash into the cab area of the crane, knocking the plaintiff out of the cab to the concrete eight feet below. The plaintiff survived, but suffers from serious, lifelong physical and mental disabilities.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a premises liability lawsuit that was brought by a woman who tripped on a raised portion of the sidewalk that was maintained by the defendant city. The case required the court to determine if the plaintiff’s evidence was sufficient to prove that the city should have been aware of the defect’s existence.Legal News Gavel

The case discusses the concept of “constructive notice,” which is important in Maryland personal injury cases. Generally speaking, a Maryland slip-and-fall plaintiff must be able to establish that the defendant landowner knew or should have known of the hazard that caused their injuries. However, establishing that a party had actual knowledge of a hazard can be difficult because it would require the plaintiff to be able to see inside the mind of the defendant.

Thus, courts allow for plaintiffs to circumstantially establish knowledge of a hazard through other relevant facts. This concept is called constructive knowledge. Essentially, the idea is that courts are comfortable imputing knowledge when a reasonably attentive person would have noticed the hazard.
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