Maryland Appellate Court Holds That a Statute of Limitations May Be Tolled When a Defendant Fraudulently Conceals Important Evidence

Earlier this month, the Maryland Court of Appeals issued an opinion in a case that was brought by the surviving family members of a man who was killed while working as a ranch-hand for the defendant. The case gave the court the opportunity to discuss when a defendant’s potentially fraudulent actions can result in the tolling of a statute of limitations in a wrongful death lawsuit filed well after the allowable time. Ultimately, the court determined that the plaintiff’s allegations that the defendant buried their loved one’s body in an attempt to cover up his own wrongdoing was sufficient to survive a summary judgement challenge by the defense.

The Facts of the Case

As noted above, the plaintiffs were the surviving loved ones of a man who was killed by the defendant while he was working as a ranch-hand. The facts of the actual killing are not detailed in the opinion; however, the plaintiffs later alleged that in 2009, the defendant was responsible for the wrongful death of their loved one. At the time of his father’s death, the ranch-hand’s son was a minor. While this situation may have also resulted in criminal charges, this case was focused solely on the civil case brought by the deceased ranch-hand’s family.

In 2015, the mother of the ranch-hand, as well as his son, filed a wrongful death action against the defendant. In their court filing, they claimed that the defendant buried the body of the ranch-hand in order to conceal any wrongdoing. The plaintiff claimed that this is what prevented them from filing the case within the statute of limitations, which was three years. The lower court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiffs appealed.

On Appeal, the Case Is Reversed

On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that the defendant’s actions in burying their loved one’s body in hopes of concealing any wrongdoing should act to toll the statute of limitations. Additionally, the plaintiffs argued that the statute of limitations should have been tolled as to the ranch-hand’s son because he was a minor when his father was killed and had no way of realizing there may have been a claim until he was older.

The court found in favor of the plaintiffs, agreeing with both of their arguments. The court explained that the statute of limitations in a wrongful death case should be tolled when the plaintiff is a minor. Furthermore, the court held that when the defendant acts to fraudulently conceal certain information relevant to a potential wrongful death case, the defendant should not be able to benefit from these actions. Thus, when a defendant takes such action, the statute of limitations is appropriately tolled.

Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of Maryland accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Even if the accident occurred years ago, there may be legitimate reasons for a delayed filing. To learn more about the various statutes of limitations in Maryland personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits, contact an attorney with the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers at 410-654-3600 today. Calling is free, and we will not bill you for our services unless we are able to help you obtain the compensation you deserve.

More Blog Posts:

Court Allows Defendant’s Prior DUI Convictions into Evidence in Recent Car Accident Case, Maryland Accident Law Blog, May 22, 2017.

Plaintiff’s Failure to Comply with Procedural Requirement Results in Dismissal of Lawsuit, Maryland Accident Law Blog, May 8, 2017.

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