Articles Posted in Relevant Personal Injury Case Law

Historically, governments have enjoyed immunity from lawsuits brought by citizens seeking compensation for injuries that were due to the negligence of a government agency or employee. However, over the years, states have passed a variety of laws permitting victims to pursue a claim of compensation against various government entities. These laws vary by state but are generally known as “Tort Claims Acts.”

Law LibraryWhile the Maryland Tort Claims Act (MTCA) does allow for victims to obtain compensation for their injuries from government entities in some situations, there are additional procedural requirements that must be followed. Most commonly, potential plaintiffs are required to provide notice of their injury to the state treasurer within one year of the occurrence.

The way in which these requirements are phrased makes them jurisdictional, meaning that a court often has little to no discretion in approving a non-compliant plaintiff’s case. A party’s failure to provide this notice will likely result in their case being dismissed and their losing the ability to recover compensation for their injuries. A recent case illustrates just how strictly these requirements are taken.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case presenting an interesting issue that may arise in Maryland premises liability cases. The court was tasked with determining whether a clause in a residential lease agreement that included limiting the statute of limitations was enforceable. Ultimately, the court concluded that the clause was enforceable, and thus, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case as untimely.

Walking on SidewalkThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff slipped and fell after stepping on a curb that crumbled under her weight. The curb was located in a common area of the apartment complex where the plaintiff lived.

In the jurisdiction where the case arose, the statute of limitations for a personal injury lawsuit is two years. However, the residential lease agreement signed by the plaintiff prior to moving into her apartment contained a clause requiring she bring any lawsuit within one year of when the cause of action accrues. Specifically, the clause stated that any case “must be instituted within one year of the date any claim or cause of action arises and that any action filed after one year from such date shall be time barred as a matter of law.”

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In Maryland medical malpractice lawsuits, the plaintiff must follow certain procedures that are not required of other personal injury plaintiffs. Primarily, this consists of filing a compliant certificate of merit.

Eye SurgeryUnder Maryland Code section 3-2C-01, the certificate of merit must contain a statement from an expert who is “knowledgeable in the accepted standard of care in the same discipline as the licensed professional against whom a claim is filed.” The affidavit must contain a statement that the defendant doctor’s care was a departure from the applicable standard of care and that the defendant’s breach of this duty was the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.

The objective of the certificate of merit requirement is to ensure that only meritorious claims are filed and pursued. However, occasionally, the requirement can get in the way of even meritorious claims. As a recent opinion illustrates, a simple misstep by a plaintiff can result in the dismissal of their lawsuit.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case requiring the court to determine if an accident victim’s claims against an insurance company fit within the underinsured/uninsured motorist (UIM) provision of the victim’s policy. After conducting a thorough analysis of the specific language used in the policy, the court concluded that the accident was not within the scope of the UIM clause and dismissed the plaintiff’s case against the insurance company.

Horse CarriageThe case is important for Maryland car accident victims because it raises an issue that often comes up in car accident cases, specifically whether an accident is covered under a motorist’s insurance policy.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was riding in the rear of a horse-drawn carriage during a Christmas parade. The carriage was such that it could only be towed by an animal – either horse or mule – and could not be towed by a vehicle. After the parade, a car rear-ended the carriage, causing the plaintiff to sustain serious injuries. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver of the carriage. However, since that claim was initially denied, the plaintiff also filed a claim against their own insurance company under the UIM provision.

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Maryland landowners have a duty to those whom they invite onto their property to keep the property safe and to warn visitors of potentially dangerous conditions. If a landowner fails to live up to this duty, and someone is injured as a result, the victim can pursue a claim for compensation against the landowner through a Maryland premises liability lawsuit.

Wet Floor SignHowever, in order to establish liability in a premises liability case, a plaintiff must present evidence to prove each element of the claim. One of these elements is the requirement that the defendant had knowledge, or should have had knowledge, of the hazard causing the victim’s fall. A recent case illustrates how courts interpret this requirement, and also what it means if a plaintiff is unable to present sufficient evidence of a defendant’s knowledge.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a customer at a Walgreen’s store. As the plaintiff approached the cash register, she slipped and fell, landing on her knee. As a result of her fall, the plaintiff suffered serious injuries and filed a premises liability claim against Walgreen’s.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving a plaintiff’s conflicting testimony, requiring the court to determine which version of the plaintiff’s testimony to credit. The case presents a valuable lesson for Maryland slip-and-fall accident plaintiffs in that it illustrates how courts analyze cases in which a party offers two versions of the same event. Ultimately, in this case, the court concluded that the version of the facts that least favored the plaintiff should be credited, resulting in the court granting the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

Wet FloorThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was an office manager at a tax-preparation business that was located in a business owned by the defendant. One day, the plaintiff arrived to open the store and went toward the back office to turn on the lights. As the plaintiff approached the rear of the office, she slipped after stepping in a puddle of water that had accumulated on the floor.

When asked in a pre-trial interrogatory, the plaintiff explained that it was not raining on the day of her accident. She also explained that she was aware of previous flooding and, in fact, knew that the office flooded the night before her fall. However, an employee had cleaned up the water by the time the plaintiff had left.

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Recently, a state court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving a young man who was seriously injured while hiking in a city-owned park after hours. The case required the court to determine if the city was entitled to government immunity regarding the plaintiff’s claim that the city should have installed a retaining wall near the trail’s edge. Ultimately, the court concluded that the city was entitled to immunity because the plaintiff’s allegations involved the design of the trail, which was covered under the state’s official immunity.

Mountain TopThe case is important for Maryland premises liability plaintiffs because Maryland courts apply similar laws in cases against local governments.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff and several friends snuck into a city-owned park after dark to go “ghost hunting.” While the plaintiff was making his way down a steep embankment to the trail below, he lost his footing, fell, and rolled down the hill. When the plaintiff reached the trail, he was traveling with so much momentum that he slid across the trail and over the ledge. The plaintiff fell about 10 feet before landing on the ground and then slamming into a tree.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case that presents an interesting issue that frequently comes up in Maryland personal injury cases. The specific claim at issue was over the defendant’s access to the plaintiff’s private Facebook account.

LaptopThe court ultimately concluded that the defendant met the necessary showing that the requested evidence was material and would likely lead to the discovery of relevant evidence. Thus, the court compelled disclosure of some of the information, posts, and photographs in the plaintiff’s private Facebook account.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff suffered a serious brain injury while riding a horse that was owned by the defendant. The plaintiff filed a personal injury claim against the defendant. In her claim, the plaintiff noted that while she used to be very active on social media and enjoyed traveling, cooking, etc., she could no longer enjoy these activities because she had a difficult time composing messages that made sense. She also claimed that she had become reclusive, and, while she used to post on social media “a lot,” she rarely did so after the accident.

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Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit brought by a man who was injured while loading purchased rolls of insulation into his truck. The case required the court to determine whether the large, unstable stack of insulation that fell on top of the plaintiff was an “open and obvious” hazard. Ultimately, the court concluded that the hazard was open and obvious, and thus it determined that the business did not owe a duty to the plaintiff.

WarehouseThe case is important for Maryland accident victims to understand because it illustrates one of the avenues a defendant in a Maryland premises liability lawsuit may take in an attempt to evade legal responsibility.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff and his son purchased several large rolls of insulation from the defendant hardware store. Due to their size, the rolls were kept in a separate storage warehouse. The cashier told the plaintiff to drive to the warehouse, where he could find the rolls and load them into his car.

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In Maryland personal injury lawsuits, it is imperative that a plaintiff is not found to be even the slightest bit at fault in causing her injuries. This is because Maryland is one of the few states that applies the doctrine of contributory negligence when it comes to determining which plaintiffs are entitled to recover compensation for their injuries.

Hot Stone MassageUnder the doctrine of contributory negligence, a plaintiff is precluded from recovering for her injuries if the defendant can establish that the plaintiff shared some responsibility in bringing on her own injuries. This strict rule – disavowed in most states – can bar recovery for a plaintiff who is determined to be just 1% at fault.

Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving a defendant’s claim that the plaintiff’s negligence played a role in her injuries. However, the court ultimately concluded that the defendant’s position was unsupported by any admissible evidence, and it affirmed the judgment in the plaintiff’s favor.

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