Articles Posted in Third-Party Liability

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case brought by a man whose finger was severed while working with a construction loader. The lawsuit was filed against the company that leased the loader to his employer and required the court to determine whether a construction loader is a dangerous instrumentality. Ultimately, the court concluded that the defendant lessor could be liable under that state’s vicarious liability laws because the loader was a dangerous instrumentality. If you have sustained an accident on a construction site, contact a Maryland construction accident attorney.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was contracted to help clear a vacant lot of debris. The lot’s owner leased a construction loader from the defendant equipment company to assist the plaintiff and his team by clearing the lot.

Evidently, at one point the plaintiff climbed inside the loader to pack down loose debris. While the plaintiff was inside, another employee used the loader to pick up and deposit a large tree stump. As the stump came into the loader, it crushed the plaintiff’s finger.

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When someone is injured in a Maryland DUI accident, it is conceivable that there are multiple liable parties. Of course, the motorist who was driving drunk is the most obvious party; however, it would seem logical that the individual or establishment that overserved the intoxicated driver also bears some responsibility.

The concept of holding third parties liable for a negligent driver’s actions is not unheard of, and courts impose third-party liability all the time in cases involving a negligent employee. In fact, many states also impose third-party liability in the drunk-driving context through statutes known as dram-shop and social-host liability laws. At the heart of both of these claims is the concept that a person – either acting in their individual capacity or in their capacity as an employee for a bar or restaurant – should know that overserving alcohol to a customer puts others in danger.

In Maryland, however, courts have rejected both dram-shop and social-host liability claims. As recently as 2013, the Court of Appeals of Maryland heard a dram-shop case, issuing an opinion including a lengthy discussion of the societal and legal considerations of a court adopting such a doctrine.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a car accident case discussing the doctrine of respondeat superior and the attendant “going and coming” doctrine. The case is illustrative of several key principles that often arise in the course of Maryland car accident cases, including the general determination of when an employer can be held liable for the negligent acts of an employee.

The Facts of the Case

An employee of the defendant corporation was driving to work early in the morning when he caused a collision, killing the passenger in the other vehicle. The family of the deceased passenger filed a personal injury lawsuit against both the employee as well as his employer. This case deals with the issue of whether the employer can be held liable for the employee’s allegedly negligent actions.

The employee was not scheduled for work that morning. After the accident, the employee told the responding police officer that he was on his way to work to collect resumes for some upcoming interviews that he had. However, while the employee had conducted several interviews earlier in the week, it was not verified that the employee had scheduled any upcoming interviews. Throughout the proceeding, the employee’s story changed slightly several times.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in West Virginia issued a written opinion in a case brought by the surviving family members of a woman who was killed in a car accident. In the case, Department of Transportation v. King, the court held that the DMV was entitled to governmental immunity, reversing a lower court.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a man who lost his mother in a fatal car accident. The driver who struck and killed his mother had previously had her license suspended but had it reinstated two years later. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) was responsible for reinstating the woman’s license.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against both the driver of the vehicle as well as the DMV. He claimed that the DMV violated a non-discretionary duty to refer the woman’s application to reinstate her license to a medical board to review if the woman was medically fit to have her license reinstated.

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In a recent case in front of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the court refused to hold an employer liable for an employee’s criminal actions that took place while the employee was off duty. This was the court’s refusal to expand the Maryland state-law doctrine of “respondeat superior.”

The Facts of the Case

Several years ago, approximately 30 homes were allegedly set on fire by an employee of the Social Security Administration. The homeowners grouped together and decided to sue the Social Security Administration for their losses, arguing that the Administration, as the employer of the person who allegedly committed the acts, was at least in part liable for their losses. Since the named defendant was a federal entity, the case was filed in federal court.

The evidence submitted suggested that all the criminal acts took place while the employee was off duty. However, there was some suggestion that some of the planning for the crimes took place while the man was at work for the Social Security Administration.

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