Earlier this month, an appellate court in Kansas issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing when a plaintiff is permitted to pursue a claim of punitive damages against a defendant. The case is instructive to Maryland personal injury claimants considering a claim against a defendant because it provides insight into how courts view claims for punitive damages and when such claims may be appropriate.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was a high-school student who was the manager of the school’s baseball team. The team was preparing to board a bus to a rival school when the defendant, a player on the team, decided he wanted to move his car closer to where the bus was planning on dropping the students off.
As the defendant was parking his car, he saw the plaintiff walking in the parking lot. He pulled up slowly behind the plaintiff as though he was going to hit her with his truck. The plaintiff attempted to move out of the way, but the truck ran over both of her feet. The plaintiff fell to the ground, and another student lifted the plaintiff into the defendant’s truck. The plaintiff claims that the defendant told her that he was sorry and that he only meant to lightly bump her with the truck. The defendant denied making the statement, claiming that he struck the plaintiff as he was trying to park.
The plaintiff filed a personal injury case against the defendant. One of the claims the plaintiff asserted was a claim for punitive damages based on the defendant’s reckless or intentional conduct. The defendant admitted he was negligent in hitting the plaintiff.
The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, asking the court to preclude the plaintiff from asking the jury to award punitive damages. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion, and the plaintiff appealed.
On appeal, the court concluded that the defendant’s conduct – whether intentional or not – was sufficient to create an issue as to whether punitive damages were appropriate. The court explained that punitive damages may be appropriate in situations in which a defendant’s conduct is either willful or wanton. The court agreed that there may not have been evidence suggesting that the defendant willfully caused the plaintiff’s injury, but the court held that the defendant’s decision to approach the plaintiff with the 1.5-ton truck from behind with the intention of scaring her may be considered wanton. Thus, the court held that the plaintiff should have the right to present the claim to the jury.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Depending on the specific circumstances of your accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your past and future medical expenses, lost wages, and any pain and suffering you endured as a result of the accident. In some cases, punitive damages may be appropriate. To learn more, and to speak with a dedicated Maryland personal injury attorney about your case, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney.
More Blog Posts:
Court Discusses School’s Liability in Recent Gym Class Injury Case, Maryland Accident Law Blog, December 1, 2017.
Procedural Requirements in Maryland Medical Malpractice Cases, Maryland Accident Law Blog, November 22, 2017.