Maryland High Court Upholds Contributory Negligence Rule

Maryland’s highest state court, the Court of Appeals, ruled earlier this month to uphold Maryland’s long standing, yet uncommon, manner of handling negligence cases.

The rule it upheld, referred to as the Contributory Negligence Rule, prevents plaintiffs from recovering anything in a negligence cause of action, if they are shown to be even one percent at fault for the incident.

The judge who penned the 5-2 majority decision stated that it is the court’s opinion that the legislature should decide the question of whether another model of determining liability would be more appropriate.

For example, an alternative model could require juries to allocate blame based on potential responsibility, and calculate damages according to that ratio.

While the Maryland legislature has reportedly considered changing the law several times since the 1960s, it has never done so.

Maryland first adopted contributory negligence in 1847 by way of a court ruling. It was once a widely used way of evaluating negligence cases, but has largely become the minority approach. Forty six states have switched to alternative views of fault, some of which allow juries to allocate fault according to responsibility.

The dissenting judges in the case referred to the rule as a “dinosaur” that should be rendered extinct.

What is noteworthy about this case is that it proliferates the usage of a standard that is not only incredibly outdated, but also patently unfair. The plaintiff in the underlying case was reportedly a volunteer soccer coach, who became seriously injured when a set of goal posts fell on his face. The jury found that both he and the club were at fault in the accident. Therefore, because of an application of the Contributory Negligence Rule, the plaintiff was denied any recovery. What message does that send to individuals like the plaintiff who want to volunteer? Just make sure you don’t hurt yourself in setting up the equipment because the cost and impact of the injuries will fall completely on your shoulders. This rule can also be incredibly unfair in motorcycle and other automobile accidents. If you are traveling just a smidgen over the speed limit, but are paralyzed due to the other driver’s complete failure to observe traffic laws, you could be completely out on your own. Hopefully this decision will lead to some renewed action in the Maryland legislature.

If you or a loved one has sustained a personal injury as a result of someone else’s negligence in Maryland or Washington D.C., consult the experienced negligence attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers. Our Maryland accident attorneys have extensive experience in helping victims recover the damages they are entitled to. Let us focus on the legal aspects of your recovery, so that you can focus on the physical and emotional. Contact us today in order to schedule your free initial consultation. You can reach us through our website, or by calling 1-800-654-1949.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Highway Worker Killed on Route 216 in Scaggsville, Maryland Accident Law Blog, published July 5, 2013
Second Lawsuit Filed Against Monster Beverage Corp., Maryland Accident Law Blog, published June 28, 2013

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