Articles Posted in Relevant Personal Injury Case Law

Filing a Maryland injury lawsuit can be more complicated when the state government is the defendant in the case. One potential complication is that a plaintiff must first provide notice when filing a claim against the state of Maryland in a personal injury claim.

Under section 12-106 of the Maryland Tort Claims Act (the Act), a claimant cannot bring a claim under the Act unless the claimant submits a written claim to the Treasurer within one year after the injury. The Treasurer then must deny the claim before the claim can be filed in court. The claim also must be filed within three years after the cause of action arises. There are some exceptions to the rule, for example, if the state has actual or constructive notice of the injury or of the defect within the year following the injury. The notice must comply with the requirements detailed in section 12-107 of the Act, which include a statement of facts and specific damages.

A recent case demonstrates how strictly notice requirements can be construed. In that case, an appeals court considered whether an estimate of damages in a notice to a city complied with the notice requirement. The plaintiff sent her notice to the city, notifying the city that she broke her leg after she stepped in a hole on a city crosswalk. She claimed that the city was negligent because residents had notified the city about the hole, and the city failed to repair it. In the notice, the plaintiff stated that “to the extent that [she] was require[d] to provide a dollar value,” she believed the value of the claim “may exceed $300,000.00.” She also stated that if the letter did not provide sufficient notice under the state, the city should advise her immediately in writing, and that she would correct any deficiencies. The woman subsequently filed suit in court. The city then responded to the notice, stating that the city denied liability. In response to the lawsuit, the city argued that the plaintiff had not complied with the notice requirement.

In Maryland, landlords are not automatically responsible for injuries that a tenant sustains at a rental property. Typically, Maryland landlords are only liable when their tenants or their guest’s injuries were the results of the landlord’s careless action or inaction. Maryland personal injury lawsuits against landlords generally involve accidents that occur in common areas, or as a result of defects in the property when the rental agreement was executed, or from conditions that the landlord agreed to remedy. Lawsuits that fall outside of these parameters present additional challenges.

For example, recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a tenant’s lawsuit against her landlord. The court addressed issues that frequently arise in personal injury lawsuits against landlords in Maryland. The tenant suffered injuries after she opened a storm door, and a gust of wind knocked her into a railing. The railing broke, and the tenant fell to the ground, injuring her ankle. During pretrial proceedings, the tenant argued that the porch was in disrepair and did not meet building code requirements, she also conceded that she knew that the railing was broken. The defendants argued that the court should grant summary judgment under both the state’s residential landlord-tenant act and common law theories of negligence. The appellate court found that the tenant knew of the defect and failed to remedy it. Therefore, the defendants were not liable under both the state’s landlord-tenant act and common law theories of negligence.

This case exemplifies common impediments that Maryland tenants may encounter when filing personal injury lawsuits against their landlords. However, there are many instances where Maryland landlords may be liable for injuries that their tenants suffer on their property. First, the landlord may be responsible if they had control over the dangerous feature, such as in the common area of the property. For example, a landlord may be liable if a tenant suffers injuries in a shared laundry facility on the property. Next, Maryland landlords may be responsible if they knew of or hid a concealed danger.

Maryland slip and fall accidents occur under a range of circumstances and can result in serious injuries or even fatalities. According to recent statistics compiled by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one million people suffer injuries after a slip and fall accident every year. Additionally, over 15 thousand people die every year related to injuries they sustained during a slip and fall. In many cases, slippery surfaces or broken steps cause slip and falls. When an individual suffers injuries in a Maryland slip and fall accident, they must understand their rights and remedies.

Maryland premises liability law establishes when a property or landowner is responsible for damages that a person suffers when they are injured on the property owner’s land. Generally, all Maryland property owners owe their visitors a duty to keep them reasonably safe from harm. Specific responsibilities vary depending on the type of property owner and visitor. Maryland distinguishes visitors into four categories, trespassers, bare licensees, invitees, and licensees.

In Maryland, trespassers are those that enter a property without permission. Generally, landowners do not owe trespassers any duty except to avoid willful or wanton misconduct. Similarly, bare licensees are those that enter a property for their own gain. Bare licensees are people such as door to door salespeople. Property owners owe bare licensees the duty to warn of any known dangers.

Maryland personal injury victims can file personal injury lawsuits and recover damages from the negligent individual or entity that caused their injuries. After a finding of negligence, juries will then determine the amount of damages that the plaintiff should recover. Damages often include medical expenses that the plaintiff incurred as a result of the injury or accident.

Maryland follows the collateral source rule which provides plaintiffs with the right to recover the full value of treatment and other economic damages. This rule allows Maryland plaintiffs to recuperate these losses even if the value is more than their out-of-pocket costs. Juries in these cases are prohibited from reducing a plaintiff’s reward for medical expenses and lost earnings based on reimbursements that they may receive from another source. Other sources include health or car insurance companies or paid leave from the plaintiff’s employer.

The collateral source rule prevents negligent defendants from obtaining a windfall because the victim has other sources of recovery. Moreover, it encourages people to obtain and maintain insurance policies. Collateral source instructions typically come up in the context of motor vehicle accidents. For example, another state’s appeals court recently issued an opinion stemming from an appeal of damages based on the collateral source rule. In that case, the plaintiff suffered severe injuries when she fell in a hotel parking lot. Medicare settled with her medical providers and covered the entirety of her expenses, which ended up being only one-fifth of her original bill. During the trial, the defendant attempted to bar the plaintiff’s introduction of her medical bills. The defendants argued that the plaintiff should only be able to introduce Medicare payments. The appeals court held that the amounts initially billed are relevant evidence subject to the collateral source rule and therefore should be admitted.

The strength of a Maryland personal injury claim is irrelevant if the court dismisses a plaintiff’s case based on their failure to comply with certain court rules or procedures. Thus, it is critical that anyone considering bringing a personal injury lawsuit discuss their case with a knowledgeable Maryland injury lawyer.

A recent federal appellate decision illustrates the court’s ability to effectively eliminate a plaintiff’s opportunity to recover for their injuries if the plaintiff does not abide by the court’s orders. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was seriously injured as a result of a surgery she underwent at a hospital. The plaintiff brought a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital, and several of the doctors who helped with the procedure.

After the defendants filed their answer to the plaintiff’s complaint, the court entered a scheduling order outlining the important deadlines in the case. Three of the deadlines that were pertinent to this appeal were:

In general, Maryland personal injury law provides that landowners owe a duty to those whom they allow onto their property. This duty typically requires that the landowner cure any known hazards, or warn visitors about dangers that cannot be remedied. However, many state legislatures have enacted statutes that exempt certain property owners from liability if someone is injured while using the property for a recreational purpose.

These statutes are generally referred to as recreational use statutes. In Maryland, the recreational use statute is contained in Maryland Code section 5-1104. The law provides that a landowner who allows others to use their property without charge for an educational or recreational purpose cannot generally be liable for a guest’s injuries. This statute applies to both public and privately held land. A recent case illustrates the type of issues that can come up when a defendant cites the recreational use statute as a defense.

According to the court’s opinion, two sisters attended a free “Second Sunday” concert at a public park. To access the park, the women parked their car on the street and then descended a flight of stairs down the grassy slope. Once the women got about halfway down the hill, they exited the stairs and found a place to watch the show.

Almost every state in the Union has some form of equine immunity statute. However, Maryland is one of just two states (the other being California) that does not have an equine immunity statute. An equine immunity statute is a law that is passed to protect the horse industry from liability that may arise from the inherent risks of caring for horses, riding horses, and observing horse races. Generally, an equine immunity statute provides that those who own or ride horses professionally cannot be liable for injuries caused by the horse.

Before getting into why Maryland does not have an equine immunity statute, a recent case illustrates how equine immunity statutes impact an injury victim’s ability to recover for horse-related injuries. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was a spectator at a youth horse race. Rather than sit along the track where most spectators observed the race, the plaintiff watched right along the track’s edge, near where the exit to the track was located. The plaintiff watched as the horses went around several times without incident, however, on about the fourth lap, the defendant’s horse struck the plaintiff.

The defendant was a young girl who had tried to stop the horse from crashing into the plaintiff, but was unable to do so. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the young girl’s family, and the girl’s family filed for summary judgment, arguing that the state’s equine immunity law precluded the plaintiff from filing her claim. The court agreed, and dismissed the plaintiff’s claim, noting that the plaintiff was injured due to the risks that are inherent in watching a horse race.

An e-cigarette is a device that uses battery power to heat a liquid to a high enough temperature so that it produces an aerosol which users inhale. Typically, the fluid in an e-cigarette cartridge contains nicotine. E-cigarettes go by several names, including vape pens, tank systems, and mods. Over the past decade, use of these products has grown at an exponential rate, mostly among younger users. Maryland e-cigarette use among young adults is concerning for many reasons, including the fact that there have been many reports of severe physical injury related to use of these products.

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case that was brought by a man who lost several teeth when an e-cigarette device exploded while he was inhaling. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff sued several defendants who manufactured, marketed, and sold the device; however, most defendants settled with the plaintiff before trial. Thus, at trial, the case proceeded against just one defendant.

Before trial, the defendant wanted to introduce evidence that the plaintiff was a former user of methamphetamine. The defendant suggested that the plaintiff’s methamphetamine use could have contributed to the plaintiff’s damages. The court precluded the evidence, and the case went to trial by jury. After trial, a jury awarded the plaintiff $48,000 for medical expenses and $2 million in compensation for his pain and suffering.

On July 11, 2019, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a case that raises an interesting and important issue for those who are considering filing a Maryland medical malpractice case. Specifically, the case required the court to determine whether the plaintiff’s evidence proved that the defendant’s conduct breached the duty he owed to the plaintiff’s daughter.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was the mother of a baby who was born with severe brain damage. Evidently, when the baby was born, she exhibited signs of respiratory distress. The hospital where the baby was born did not have a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Thus, it was common for hospital staff to transfer babies in need of serious medical attention to the nearest NICU.

The doctor overseeing the baby’s care, however, determined that the baby could be appropriately cared for at the hospital’s “Max Care Nursery.” After monitoring the baby for a few hours with no improvement, the doctor consulted with another specialist. The specialist took the baby under his care and eventually transferred the baby to the nearest NICU. As a result of respiratory distress, the baby suffered severe brain damage. The plaintiff filed claims against all doctors who treated her child, as well as the hospital. However, only the doctor overseeing the baby’s care remained, as all other defendants settled with the plaintiff.

Parking lots are riddled with potential hazards, from potholes, to shopping carts, to inattentive drivers. It is not surprising, then, that there are thousands of people who are injured in Maryland parking lots each year. A significant number of these injuries are the result of slip-and-fall accidents. Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit arising out of a parking lot trip-and-fall.

As the court described the facts leading up to the filing of the case, the plaintiff was injured while she was returning a cart after shopping at the defendant grocery store. The plaintiff finished shopping and entered the shopping cart corral without issue, however, as the plaintiff was leaving the corral, she tripped on a raised crossbar connecting the ends of the corral. Evidently, the corral was hit by a delivery truck several months prior to the plaintiff’s accident, which bent the frame of the corral. As a result, the crossbar of the corral lifted off the ground by a little over an inch. It was this raised crossbar that caused the plaintiff to trip and fall.

The plaintiff initiated a premises liability lawsuit against the defendant. In response, the defendant argued that the plaintiff should not be permitted to recover for her injuries because the hazard that caused her injury, the raised crossbar, was open and obvious. The defendant explained that it had called to have the crossbar fixed, but hadn’t scheduled a day to have the repair completed. The defendant also noted that the plaintiff was able to safely enter the corral, suggesting she knew that the crossbar posed a potential hazard. The lower court agreed, and dismissed the plaintiff’s case. The plaintiff appealed.

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