Articles Posted in Relevant Personal Injury Case Law

Swimming pools are a great way to bring friends and family together on those hot summer days. However, those who have swimming pools on their property assume a good deal of responsibility to avoid accidental drownings. Indeed, Maryland swimming pool deaths account for nearly 400 fatalities each year and represent about 20% of all drowning deaths in the state.

Swimming Pool WaterThose who have swimming pools on their property must take adequate precautions to ensure that those who use the pool are safe. Largely, local regulations govern which precautions are necessary. A recent personal injury case illustrates the difficulties one wrongful death plaintiff had when attempting to establish liability on the part of a condo association that operated the pool where his son drowned.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff’s son was swimming at a swimming pool located in a condominium complex where his aunt lived. At the time, the boy’s aunt was not present, but he was with other family members. The group used the aunt’s key card to gain access to the pool and did not seek approval from the condo association to use the pool.

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In Maryland, whenever someone is injured on the property of a person, business, or government entity, the victim may be entitled to monetary compensation for their injuries through a Maryland premises liability lawsuit. Proving a premises liability lawsuit in Maryland requires a plaintiff to establish certain elements, which can vary depending on the relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant. For example, a “business invitee” is owed a higher duty of care than someone who enters another party’s land without permission.

Swimming PoolGenerally speaking, a Maryland premises liability plaintiff must prove that the landowner knew or should have known about the hazard but failed to take corrective action to remedy the harm. The plaintiff will also need to establish that they were unaware of the hazard that caused their injury. Importantly, a plaintiff must also specify the alleged act of negligence they claim caused their injury. A recent case illustrates how one plaintiff’s failure to include an additional theory of liability prevented him from arguing that theory on appeal.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was working with the defendant realtor to find an investment property. The defendant had a listing in mind that he thought would be a good fit for the plaintiff. The property had a pool in the back yard, which the defendant had arranged to be professionally serviced and then emptied prior to listing the property for sale.

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Maryland state and local governments face a significant number of Maryland accident lawsuits each year. In many cases, the government named as a defendant may concede liability and offer a settlement agreement to an accident victim in return for the victim agreeing not to pursue the case in court. However, before a government entity can make the determination of whether the accident victim’s case is meritorious, the government entity must first learn about the plaintiff’s injury.

Manhole CoverTo help expedite the process, anyone considering filing a personal injury case against a Maryland government entity must first file notice to that entity, providing certain information, including the nature of their injury, where it occurred, and what the accident victim is asking to receive. An accident victim who fails to file this pre-lawsuit notice, or files a notice that does not comply with the requirements, risks the early dismissal of their case. This is what happened in a recent premises liability case out of Georgia.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured when he stepped in a manhole that was not covered. The plaintiff initially reported the open manhole to the police department and provided the address of 425 Chappell Road, which was at the intersection of Chappell Road and Mayson Turner Road.

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The document that initiates a Maryland medical malpractice lawsuit against a defendant is called the complaint. Under Maryland law, a plaintiff’s complaint must be drafted according to guidelines. For example, a complaint must contain sufficiently specific allegations to put the defendant on notice regarding the lawsuit and how they were alleged to have been negligent. A recent case illustrates how one plaintiff’s failure to draft a sufficiently specific complaint resulted in a jury verdict in her favor being reversed.

Operating RoomThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff, a breast cancer survivor, was scheduled to have reconstructive surgery performed by the defendant. However, due to the radiation used to treat the cancer, there were risks involved with the procedure. The defendant discussed the risks with the plaintiff, and initially the plaintiff agreed to proceed with surgery on both breasts.

The plaintiff claims that she later changed her mind and revoked consent to operate on her left breast, citing concerns over the radiation. The plaintiff still wanted to proceed with reconstructive surgery on her right breast.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in California issued a written opinion in a personal injury lawsuit filed by a woman who was seriously injured when she was run over by a horse during a race in which she was participating. The case is important for Maryland personal injury plaintiffs because it acts as a warning, illustrating how defendants may attempt to evade liability through the doctrine of assumption of the risk.

Horse RacingThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was participating in a horse race spanning either 25 or 50 miles, depending on the rider’s preference. During the race, riders were to stop at checkpoints to obtain playing cards indicating that they did indeed make their way around the predetermined circuit.

At approximately the eight-mile mark, the plaintiff was in the leading group of riders. The plaintiff dismounted her horse to obtain the playing card, as per the race rules. However, as she did so, the defendant’s horse ran into a nearby cluster of other horses, causing a chain-reaction accident. Several of the horses were startled and took off running. The plaintiff was injured when she was trampled by one of the horses.

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Maryland premises liability lawsuits are often centered around the relationship between the parties. For example, land and business owners owe a greater duty of care to those whom they invite onto their property than those who gain entry by accident or through trespassing. Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a slip-and-fall case brought by a tenant in a condominium complex against the condo association and the property management company. The court ultimately dismissed the case against the defendants because no landlord-tenant relationship could be shown, illustrating the importance of naming the proper parties in a Maryland premises liability lawsuit.

Dark StaircaseThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was living in a condo that she rented from the owner. The plaintiff had an oral lease with the owner; no written lease existed. While living in the condo, the plaintiff complained to the condo association several times about the lack of lighting near a specific set of stairs; however, the association took no action. One day, the plaintiff slipped and fell while descending the stairs. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit, naming both the condominium association and the property management company responsible for the complex’s maintenance.

The defendants argued that the plaintiff should not be entitled to recover compensation because she was aware of the hazard that ultimately caused her fall. In response, the plaintiff cited the “necessity rule,” which allows for recovery even when an accident is caused by a known hazard if the tenant must cross the hazard by necessity. The trial court agreed with the plaintiff, and the defendants’ motion for summary judgment was denied. The defendants then appealed to a higher court.

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Last month, an appellate court in Rhode Island issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit that was brought by a tenant of an apartment complex who slipped and fell on a patch of black ice in the complex parking lot. At the conclusion of the plaintiff’s case against the complex’s management company, before the case was presented to the jury, the trial judge granted the defendant’s motion for judgment as a matter of law. The appellate court was tasked with determining whether the trial judge was proper to decide the case as a matter of law rather than submit the case to a jury for a factual resolution of the plaintiff’s claim.

Winter RoadThe Appellate Court’s Decision

In the above case, the appellate court determined that the lower court was improper to decide the case as a matter of law. The court explained that there was evidence presented by the plaintiff indicating that the defendant may have been negligent. Specifically, the plaintiff testified that the defendant would plow any fallen snow in the parking lot to an area that was slightly above the level of the parking lot. Thus, when the snow melted, water would run onto the parking lot, where it could later re-freeze, creating a hazard. Indeed, the plaintiff also presented evidence, through his wife’s testimony, that he had complained about these ice patches on numerous occasions.

Judgment as a Matter of Law in Maryland Courts

In Maryland personal injury cases, it is the judge’s job to rule on all legal issues. For example, a judge will often determine which evidence the jury is able to consider and instruct the jury on the law that pertains to the case. The jury’s job is to then apply the law as explained by the judge to the facts of the case, resolving any factual disputes.

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Over the last century, the development of modern medicine has resulted in not just a decrease in the mortality rate of infants but also in the ability to determine whether an unborn child will suffer from a serious, life-altering abnormality. Through diligent testing and a thorough analysis of a couple’s medical history, doctors are now able to advise parents about which, if any, conditions their offspring may be at risk of developing.

Baby's HandGiven the advances made in the medical field and the current ability to intervene to avoid the birth of a child who will suffer from a debilitating, life-long incurable disease, the duty physicians owe to their patients has grown to include advising patients about their specific risks. If a physician fails to advise a patient of these risks, and the patient gives birth to a child with a serious disease that would have been detectable through proper testing, a wrongful birth lawsuit may be appropriate. A recent case illustrates what a wrongful birth case is and how a plaintiff can go about proving one.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were a couple who gave birth to a child with severe disabilities. During the pregnancy, an ultrasound was conducted that displayed congenital abnormalities; however, the plaintiffs’ doctor failed to inform the plaintiffs about these defects. The plaintiffs claimed that they would have chosen to terminate the pregnancy had they been made aware of the risks involved with carrying the pregnancy full-term.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Colorado issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit that was brought by the parents of a young girl who was seriously injured while playing in her school’s playground. Ultimately, the court concluded that the zip-line on which the girl was playing did not constitute a “dangerous condition” and upheld the school’s governmental immunity.

Zip LineThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs’ daughter was playing on a zip-line in her school’s playground when she fell from the apparatus and fractured her wrist and forearm. There was a sign next to the zip-line stating “adult supervision required”; however, it was not clear if there was a school employee nearby when the accident occurred. After their daughter recovered, the parents filed a premises liability lawsuit against the school.

Initially, the school asked the court to dismiss the case, arguing that under state law, the school was entitled to government immunity. However, the plaintiffs argued that under the same state law, immunity is not proper when a government is responsible for a “dangerous condition” that is on public property. Thus, the question for the court was whether the zip-line constituted a dangerous condition.

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Anyone who has spent a few hours watching old courtroom T.V. dramas likely remembers the climactic moments when – after a long, drawn-out trial – one of the parties presents a surprise witness that completely makes their case. Well, in reality, surprise witnesses are for the most part a thing of the past, due to the current discovery rules.

CourtroomDuring the pre-trial discovery phase of a trial, both parties are required to present the other party with a list of witnesses they intend to call. While adjustments can be made along the way, courts generally frown upon presenting a “surprise” witness unless certain circumstances are present. A recent case illustrates how a medical malpractice plaintiff was prevented from having one of his witnesses testify because he failed to disclose her identity during discovery.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was paralyzed after he underwent a surgery that was performed by the defendant doctor. The plaintiff filed this medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor, claiming that the doctor’s negligence resulted in his paralysis.

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