On November 2, 2010, voters across Maryland will be asked to answer an important question regarding Maryland’s Constitution. We encourage the residents of Maryland to VOTE FOR QUESTION 2, IN FAVOR of the Constitutional Amendment question limiting a Trial by Jury to civil cases where the amount in controversy exceeds $15,000.00.
In the State of Maryland, someone injured in an automobile, motorcycle, truck accident, or any incident where injuries and damages are caused by the negligence or wrong choices of another person or corporation, has the right to file a lawsuit.
Currently, in Maryland state courts, a lawsuit brought by a plaintiff (the injured person) seeking damages in the amount of $10,000.00 or less is guaranteed to stay in the District Court of Maryland. In the District Court, the case will be heard by a Judge, and the advantages include the scheduling of the trial fairly quickly (usually two to four months after filing the lawsuit), and litigation expenses that are kept low because expert witnesses are not required, and filing fees are $38.00.
Currently, a lawsuit filed by a plaintiff seeking damages in the amount of $10,000.01 to $30,000.00 can be filed in the District Court of Maryland, BUT the Defendant’s lawyer may “bump” the case up to the Circuit Court by requesting a jury trial. In many cases, the choice to bump the case up is a Defendant lawyer’s litigation strategy designed only to make it more costly and more time consuming for an injured person to have her day in Court. Cases litigated in the Circuit Court are considerably more costly to the plaintiff because an expert is often required, depositions are taken which require the use of court reporters, and filing fees are between $115.00 and $145.00. In addition, cases in the Circuit Court take approximately twelve to eighteen months to get to trial.
By raising the right to a jury trial to cases where the amount in controversy exceeds $15,000.00, the law would allow injured people who have cases worth $10,000.00 to $15,000.00 to have their cases heard fairly and impartially by a judge in the District Court of Maryland without having to travel through the lengthy and costly Circuit Court of Maryland proceeding.
In addition, if the Constitutional Amendment passes, the Circuit Court civil dockets would be less crowded as more cases would be appropriately handled in the District Court. Finally, the cost of administering the court system borne by the Maryland taxpayer will be reduced because more cases will be tried in the District Court without jurors (who are paid for their service) and with fewer court personnel.
For those people interested in the exact working of Question 2, it will be:
(Senate Bill 119, Chapter 480 of the 2010 Legislative Session)
Trial by Jury
Authorizing the enactment of legislation to limit the right to a jury trial in a civil proceeding to those proceedings in which the amount in controversy exceeds $15,000.00.
(Amending Maryland Declaration of Rights – Articles 5(a) and 23)
Under Articles 5 and 23 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights, a party in a civil proceeding has a right to a jury trial where the amount in controversy exceeds $10,000.00. In cases where the amount in controversy does not exceed this threshold amount, a judge, rather than a jury, determines the verdict. The constitutional amendment would increase the amount-in-controversy limitation by providing that a party may not demand a jury trial in a civil proceeding unless the amount in controversy exceeds $15,000.00, excluding attorney’s fees if attorney’s fees are recoverable in the proceeding.