Most Maryland personal injury lawsuits are resolved through pre-trial settlement negotiations, rather than through a trial. The reasons why parties enter into settlement agreements vary, but most often they include a desire for certainty in the case’s outcome. Indeed, many Maryland personal injury plaintiffs may wish to accept a negotiated settlement amount rather than risk taking the case to trial and receiving nothing. Defendants in personal injury cases may also be interested in agreeing to settle for a known amount, rather than risking a much larger jury verdict should the plaintiff succeed in proving their case at trial.
Settlement agreements are essentially contracts whereby the plaintiff agrees to withdraw the case against the defendant, and the defendant agrees to compensate the plaintiff for doing so. Since settlement agreements free up valuable judicial resources, courts generally favor settlement agreements and permit parties to openly negotiate the terms of an agreement. For example, a plaintiff may choose to settle with one of the named defendants but proceed toward trial against another defendant.
When it comes to excusing parties from a Maryland personal injury lawsuit, plaintiffs should take care to ensure that the party that is being excused is not necessary for some other reason. A recent opinion issued by a Mississippi appellate court illustrates the difficulties one plaintiff had establishing her case against a utility commission after settling a case against two other named defendants.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff stepped into a sunken utility box that was recessed into the sidewalk in front of an auto parts store. At the time of the plaintiff’s fall, grass clippings had covered up the recessed box, preventing the plaintiff from taking note of the hazard.
The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the auto parts store, the city, and the utility commission that installed the utility box. Through pre-trial settlement negotiations, the plaintiff excused the city and the auto parts store from the lawsuit, and she proceeded to trial against the utility commission alone. Notably, the settlement agreement between the plaintiff and the city stated that the plaintiff agreed to release all claims against the city as well as its “successors, agents, attorneys, insurers, and subsidiaries.”
Months later, the utility commission moved for summary judgment, arguing that it was also excused because the utility commission was a subsidiary of the city. The plaintiff argued that she did not intend to excuse the utility commission when she excused the city. However, the court disagreed, finding that she did excuse the utility commission because it was a subsidiary of the city. As a result of the court’s decision, the plaintiff will not be permitted to pursue additional compensation for her injuries against the utility commission.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Slip-and-Fall Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Maryland premises liability lawsuit. Depending on the facts of your case, it may be in your best interest to secure a pre-trial settlement against one or more of the named defendants. However, you should be sure you know what you are agreeing to do. The experienced Maryland personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have extensive knowledge and experience handling Maryland personal injury matters, including cases that result in pre-trial settlements. Call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.
More Blog Posts:
Plaintiff Injured by Fallen Tree Permitted to Proceed with Claim Against Apartment Complex, Maryland Accident Law Blog, October 9, 2017.
Recently Filed Lawsuit Claims Former NFL Star Aaron Hernandez May Have Had Degenerative Brain Disease, Maryland Accident Law Blog, October 2, 2017.