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.
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.