Articles Posted in Relevant Personal Injury Case Law

As we have discussed in other posts, the legal doctrine of contributory negligence precludes personal injury victims who are found to be partially at fault for their injuries from pursuing a claim of financial compensation. While Maryland’s contributory negligence law, in most people’s eyes, is outdated and overly harsh, for now, it governs how courts determine liability in Maryland personal injury accidents.

Contributory negligence is often discussed in the context of auto accidents. However, the doctrine also applies in Maryland slip-and-fall cases. A recent state appellate decision illustrates why contributory negligence is so harmful to Maryland premises liability plaintiffs.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff owned property in the defendant condo complex. One day, the plaintiff was walking along a sidewalk in the complex when she tripped on a section of uneven cement. The plaintiff frequented the area where she fell. Evidently, the cement area had been marked by complex management with blue dots, indicating it to be an area that needed to be repaired.

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In Maryland product liability cases, courts will apply one of two tests to determine if the manufacturer can be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. Where a product is alleged to have a malfunction, courts will apply the “risk-utility” test. However, when there is no allegation that the product malfunctioned in any way, courts will apply the “consumer expectations” test.

Under a risk-utility analysis, courts consider whether the danger presented by the product is outweighed by its utility. A recent opinion issued by a state appellate court illustrates the application of the risk-utility test.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff purchased a heating pad that was manufactured by the defendant. The plaintiff was using the heating pad as she was lying in bed, and fell asleep while the pad was on. About 90 minutes later, the plaintiff’s roommate came into the plaintiff’s room after noticing a strange smell. As it turns out, the heating pad had burned into the sheets and mattress, ultimately burning the house down. The Fire Chief determined that the heating pad was the cause of the fire.

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Whenever someone is injured due to the negligence of another person or entity, the injured party is entitled to pursue a claim for compensation through a Maryland personal injury lawsuit. However, based on longstanding constitutional principles, government agencies enjoy immunity from some of these lawsuits. Thus, one of the most important considerations after a Maryland accident is whether any of the defendants are government employees and, if so, whether they may be entitled to immunity.

Under Maryland case law, government agencies are entitled to immunity when carrying out discretionary duties. A discretionary duty, as the name implies, is one which involves the exercise of discretion. If an act is not discretionary, it is ministerial, meaning that it does not require the judgment of a government employee. A recent case illustrates how courts approach the distinction between ministerial and discretionary acts.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, a young girl was planning on attending a field trip to a pool that was located in a government-owned park. Because the young girl could not swim, her mother spoke with the playground coordinator, who reassured her that the girl’s ability would be assessed in the shallow end of the pool. The mother agreed to let her daughter go on the field trip. Tragically, however, the young girl drowned in the pool as staff members were changing in the locker room.

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Most people have signed a liability release waiver at some point. Often, release waivers are included on the back of concert or sporting event tickets. While the language in these agreements may not be clear to the reader, they are generally enforceable and can prevent an accident victim from holding a company liable – even for their own negligent actions.

With that said, there are limits to the enforceability of Maryland liability release waivers. For example, courts will not enforce a waiver that purports to waive the right to pursue compensation based on a party’s willful, wanton, or reckless negligence. A recent state appellate opinion illustrates how this situation may arise.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was killed after she was run over by a tow-truck on the Daytona International Speedway. Apparently, employees of the facility directed the tow-truck driver to back up into a restricted non-spectator area. However, as the driver was backing up, he ran over the plaintiff.

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Each year, there are thousands of Maryland sports injuries, ranging from the relatively minor to the life-threatening. For the most part, when someone decides to take up a sport, they should know that certain risks are inherent in the sport. However, at the same time, participants should also be able to expect that the league that organizes the sport has created a set of rules that protects the players from unnecessary risks that are not inherent to the sport.

In a recent case issued by a federal appellate court, the court discussed a plaintiff’s claim that was brought against a youth water polo league. The plaintiff claimed that the league’s lack of rules regarding concussion-management and when an injured player should return to play resulted in her daughter’s serious post-concussion syndrome.

The Facts

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff was the mother of a student who suffered severe post-concussion syndrome after competing in a three-day water polo tournament put on by the defendant organizers. Evidently, the plaintiff’s daughter was a goalie and, during the first day of play, was struck in the head with the ball. The plaintiff’ daughter was “dazed” as a result of the injury, and swam poolside to talk to her coach. Having no experience or training on concussion-management for young athletes, the coach allowed the girl to continue playing. Throughout the remainder of the tournament, the girl was struck in the head several more times.

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In Maryland, landowners owe a duty of care to those whom they invite onto their property. Generally, a property owner must take care to remedy known hazards on their property. Of course, a plaintiff’s own negligence can act to defeat their claim against a landowner, if the plaintiff fails to exercise reasonable care themselves.

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing whether a maintenance worker’s claim against a property owner should proceed to a jury trial. Ultimately, the court concluded that it should, holding that the defendant had a non-delegable duty to maintain the property in a safe condition.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was hired by the defendant property owner to change the lightbulbs atop four 30-foot metal poles surrounding a tennis court. The plaintiff had previously successfully changed the bulbs by attaching two ladders to reach the top of the pole.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case raising an interesting issue that all Maryland slip-and-fall injury victims should be aware of. The case discussed the potential liability of third-parties who may not initially be thought of as responsible parties.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was an employee at a restaurant. While working, the employee was asked to empty a grease trap into a dumpster in the rear of the restaurant. While the plaintiff was walking the trap back to the dumpster, he stepped in an open water meter, causing him to spill hot oil on himself.

The plaintiff initially named his employer and several related parties (the employers) in his lawsuit. In response, those parties named the defendant maintenance company (the defendant) in a third-party complaint. The employers argued that the defendant was liable for the plaintiff’s injuries under a contract the defendant had to perform maintenance of the parking lot area. The plaintiff then named the defendant in his lawsuit, as well.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a case illustrating the importance of meticulously following the procedural requirements of a Maryland medical malpractice lawsuit. Specifically, the case involved a plaintiff’s failure to provide sworn expert testimony.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff scheduled a knee surgery at the defendant medical center. Shortly after the operation was completed, the plaintiff began to suffer shortness of breath. One of the defendant doctors placed the plaintiff on oxygen and ordered an X-ray. The plaintiff was subsequently discharged. A few days later, the plaintiff returned complaining of shortness of breath. The plaintiff was diagnosed with pneumonia and exhibited signs that she had suffered a stroke.

The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice case against several of the medical providers, as well as the medical center. The defendants moved for summary judgment based on the plaintiff’s failure to attach any sworn expert testimony. The plaintiff responded by providing the name of an expert witness she expected to testify and a brief unsworn summary of what the expert’s testimony would cover. The defendants argued that the unsworn summary was not sufficient, and sought dismissal of the plaintiff’s case.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case discussing several important issues that frequently arise in Maryland product liability cases. The case required the court to determine if the plaintiff’s misuse of the defendant’s product constituted a complete defense to the plaintiff’s claim. The court concluded that it did and dismissed the plaintiff’s claim against the defendant manufacturer.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff owned a die grinder manufactured by the defendant. The grinder was an air-powered tool that was compatible with various attachments and was designed for a variety of applications. According to the court’s opinion, the grinder contained an instruction manual indicating that all instructions should be read before using the product and “failure to comply with instructions could result in personal injury.”

Evidently, the manual instructed users only to use the cut-off wheel attachment when a safety guard is in place. Additionally, the instructions indicated that only attachments that were rated up to 25,000 revolutions per minute (RPM) should be used. The manual also instructed users to wear safety glasses at all times while using the product. The grinder did not come with a safety guard.

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Under Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings Section 3-2C-02, a Maryland medical malpractice claim “shall be dismissed … if the claimant fails to file a certificate of a qualified expert with the court.” This requirement was initially implemented to deter the filing of frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits and to ensure that meritorious claims are heard expediently. However, over time the requirement has become the focus of significant litigation as medical professionals routinely attempt to use it as a defense to any claim made against them.

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing the expert-affidavit requirement. Ultimately, the court concluded that the alleged negligence of the medical professional was not “directly involved” or “proximate” to the procedure the plaintiff was undergoing. Thus, the court held that the requirement did not apply.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was scheduled to have a hysterectomy. Before the surgery began, the defendant anesthesiologist attempted to intubate the plaintiff. However, while the defendant was in the process of intubating the plaintiff, the power went out. While the lights were out, the defendant allegedly dropped a medical tool on the plaintiff’s tooth, chipping it.

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