In a Maryland strict liability case, a plaintiff must show that there was a defect in the product that existed when the product left the defendant’s control, that the defect makes the product unreasonably dangerous, the defect caused the plaintiff’s injuries, and that it was foreseeable that the product would be in such condition when it reached the consumer. A defect may include the failure to warn a consumer of the risks involved in using the product.

In considering a strict liability claim, a court will consider whether the plaintiff proved that the defendant’s conduct actually caused the plaintiff’s injuries. In cases where only one negligent act is at issue, Maryland courts consider whether but-for the defendant’s conduct, the injuries would not have occurred. In cases where two or more independent acts caused the plaintiff’s injury, Maryland courts consider whether it is more likely than not that the defendant’s conduct was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff’s injuries. A defendant may also try to defend against a strict liability claim by attempting to shift the blame on the consumer. A defendant may be successful if can show that the consumer was negligent by voluntarily and unreasonably confronting a known danger.

In a recent product liability case before a federal appeals court, the court considered whether the plaintiff had sufficiently proven a strict liability claim. In that case, the plaintiff rented an electric drain rodder from the Home Depot to unclog a drain in his home. He was using the device at home and because the powered reverse did not work, he tried to remove the cable by hand. The cable wrapped around his arm and he was thrown to the ground. His hand was badly injured and most of his right index finger had to be amputated. The plaintiff sued the Home Depot and the product manufacturer for negligence, breach of warranty, and strict product liability.

Separating phases of a trial, known as bifurcation, often occurs when failing to do so would introduce issues in another phase that would improperly influence the jury. For example, in a criminal DUI case, if a defendant had a prior DUI, the case might be split into the guilt and sentencing phases so that the jury would not be influenced by the prior DUI in deciding whether the defendant is guilty. In a Maryland civil DUI case, the case might be split into a compensatory damages phase and a punitive damages phase, so that the jury would not be influenced by the fact that the defendant was driving drunk in deciding the amount of damages the plaintiff should be awarded. Similar concepts apply in Maryland car accident cases.

In Maryland, the trial judge has the discretion to decide whether to bifurcate or trifurcate a trial. The trial judge’s decision may be overturned if the trial judge abused his or her discretion. Under Maryland Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 2-503, a judge may separate trial of a claim or issue because it would be convenient or to avoid prejudice.

In a recent case, the judge decided to bifurcate compensatory and punitive damages phases of a DUI accident trial but allowed evidence of the defendant’s intoxication in the compensatory damages phase. In that case, the plaintiff was stopped at a red light and was rear-ended by the defendant driver. The plaintiff filed negligence claims against the defendant driver and against the entity that owned the vehicle. The defendant driver was drunk at the time of the crash, and the plaintiff sought both compensatory and punitive damages. The jury found in favor of the plaintiff and awarded over $2.5 million in compensatory damages and subsequently awarded $15,000 in punitive damages.

Individuals injured in Maryland accidents have the ability to file a personal injury lawsuit against the party who negligently caused the accident. In some cases, they can also bring suit against the defendant’s employer, who may be more able to financially compensate the victim. But typically, to recover under this theory of vicarious liability against the employer, an individual must prove that the employee’s negligent actions occurred in the course and the scope of their employment. This can be a confusing doctrinal point for many potential plaintiffs, but it basically means that employers cannot be sued for things their employees did outside of their work—if an employee who gets weekends off gets drunk one Saturday night and goes on a drive to a bar, for example, their employer typically cannot be held liable if they cause a car accident because that accident had nothing to do with their employment. This is an important nuance to understand in the doctrine for plaintiffs considering filing suit against a negligent defendant and their employer.

One recent state appellate case illustrates this doctrine and how it may come up. According to the court’s written opinion, the defendant in the case was an employee at a deli, and sometimes made deliveries with his own car. One morning, his manager called him early to make a delivery later that day, and he agreed. He left for work a little earlier than usual that morning so he could do some prep before taking the delivery. On his way to work, he lost control of his car and struck another vehicle, killing the two men inside. A blood test after the accident showed that he had marijuana in his system at the time of the accident. The deceased driver’s wife filed suit against the employee and his employer, arguing that they were vicariously liable for the accident. The employer filed for summary judgment, arguing that the employee was not acting in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident.

On appeal, the appellate court found that the employer was entitled to this grant of summary judgment, because going to and from work in one’s own vehicle generally falls outside the scope of employment. The employee was driving his own car, had not yet clocked in, and would not be paid for the time spent in his commute—and thus, it was not sufficiently related to his employment such that vicarious liability was proper. This case highlights the importance of understanding how and when various forms of liability are proper when filing a personal injury lawsuit, to maximize your chances of success.

As February came, so too did a big winter storm, hitting the East Coast hard. Maryland was covered in snow, which, while pretty, can cause major complications on the roads and highways. Winter weather is a major contributing factor to Maryland car accidents and driving during or after a winter storm can be dangerous. Even smaller instances of winter weather than the one recently experienced can be cause for concern—freezing rain, for example, can cause roads to ice over, making them slippery and making it more difficult for drivers to control their vehicles or stop.

For example, take a recent tragic Maryland car accident. According to a local news report, a fatal accident occurred in Jessup one Tuesday morning, on I-95 just before Maryland Route 32. Early that morning, three cars were involved in a minor crash, causing them to pull off of the road. Shortly after, the registered owner of one of the vehicles, a 36-year-old man, arrived at the scene to assess the damage. At this time, according to Maryland State Police, a driver of a silver Honda Civic traveling north on I-95 lost control of his car and then hit a Honda Accord. The impact of the crash pushed the Honda Accord into the owner assessing his vehicle, and fatally pinned him in between two vehicles. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Others were injured in this series of accidents as well—one man was taken to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma center, and three other individuals were taken to Howard County General Hospital with injuries.

Local authorities believe that both crashes were caused by weather conditions, specifically, a storm on Monday evening that caused ice and slick spots on the roads Tuesday morning. In fact, Maryland State Policy said that between Monday at 5 PM to Tuesday at 5 AM, their officers responded to 63 crashes and 28 disabled/unattended vehicles and answered 424 calls for service. This highlights how important it is for Maryland drivers to remain vigilant and on high alert when driving during winter weather, or to avoid driving if they can. Drivers who have never been in accidents before may find that the wintry weather and slick conditions make it more difficult to control their vehicle, potentially leading to crashes. And unfortunately, nothing can undo the injuries or deaths sustained as a result of these accidents.

Many Maryland residents go to and from work every day without ever experiencing any major accidents. Sometimes, however, accidents occur on the job, and employees will find themselves injured because of something that happened while they were working. These accidents can take many forms. For example, mailmen might get bitten by a dog while delivering mail, or they might trip while walking up to someone’s door to drop off a package. Grocery store workers might slip on a wet floor, or mechanics might get injured by faulty machinery. In many of these circumstances, the employee would be eligible to claim worker’s compensation and recover financially for their losses against their employer. In some cases, however, a worker may also be able to bring a third-party work injury claim to recover for the damages they have suffered.

Third-party work injury claims are filed by an employee injured on the job against a negligent party other than their employer—a third party. This type of claim is available when the injury was caused in full or in part by a party other than the employer. For example, take a tragic accident from earlier this month. According to a local news report, the accident occurred around 7:30 one night at a Home Depot. A delivery driver (who did not work for Home Depot) was delivering construction materials when a load of drywall fell on him at the store, striking and ultimately killing him. Not much more is known about this incident right now, but it was clearly an unexpected tragedy.

This is an example of a situation where an employee—or in this case, an employee’s family, since the victim was killed—may be able to file a third-party claim. In this case, rather than suing the victim’s employer, the plaintiffs would potentially file suit against Home Depot. To be successful in this claim, the plaintiffs would have to prove that Home Depot, or one of its employees, somehow caused the accident. Perhaps they negligently secured the drywall high up somewhere, creating a risk that it would fall on someone below, for example. If the plaintiffs can successfully prove that Home Depot was responsible for the accident, they can recover financially against them to try and make them whole after the damage suffered. Damages awarded to plaintiffs in cases such as these commonly include medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and even funeral and burial costs.

The doctrine of res ipsa loquitor relates to the plaintiff’s burden of proving a negligence case. Generally, the fact that an accident or injury occurred is not evidence of negligence itself. However, in cases where the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor is applied, a plaintiff may be able to show that the type of accident itself signifies that negligence can be inferred in that case. In a Maryland car accident case, the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor can be applied if the accident is one that would not normally occur in the absence of the operator’s negligence, and the facts make it clear that there should be an inference of negligence. For example, a car rolling down a hill shortly after it is parked may be a situation in which the doctrine would be applied, and negligence could be inferred.

The doctrine permits a plaintiff in a Maryland accident case to establish a prima facie case of a defendant’s negligence. To invoke the doctrine under Maryland law, the plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that: (1) the injury is one that would not normally occur absent negligence; (2) the defendant had exclusive control of the instrument that caused the injury; and (3) the injury was not caused by the plaintiff.

In a recent case, a state appeals court considered whether the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor could be applied in the case of a gate at a county that closed on and injured an attorney. The plaintiff (the attorney) went to meet a client at a county jail, and the interior gate at the jail closed on her unexpectedly, injuring her. The plaintiff filed a complaint against the county. The plaintiff requested a jury instruction on res ipsa loquitor, explaining that the jury could find that the incident was such a type that it would not have occurred without negligence on the part of the defendant. The jury subsequently returned a verdict in the plaintiff’s favor.

Companies regularly issue recalls for products that may cause illnesses or injuries to consumers. If an individual has been injured by a defective or unreasonably dangerous product, a recall of the product can serve as an indication that the product is unsafe in a Maryland product liability claim.

Complaints concerning products are investigated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The agency works to promote consumer safety by investigating and evaluating complaints and coordinating recalls. The CPSC can issue a voluntary recall or a mandatory recall, depending on the nature of the defect, though most CPSC recalls are voluntary recalls. The company responsible then must follow through to actually recall the product. The agency will announce the recall and offer a remedy to consumers affected by the recall.

Even if a consumer receives a replacement or a refund for the item, a consumer can still file a product liability claim against the company responsible for the defective product. Filing a claim against the responsible company allows injured consumers to recover compensation for their injuries due to the defect. There are different avenues for recovery in a product liability claim. For a strict liability claim based on a defective product, the plaintiff is not required to prove that the company acted negligently. Rather, the plaintiff must only demonstrate that the product was defective when it left the defendant’s control, that there was no substantial change in its condition before it reached the consumer, that the product was unreasonably dangerous, and that the defect caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Negligence or breach of warranty may also provide avenues for recovery.

The tragic thing about Maryland personal injury accidents is that they can happen instantaneously, in the blink of an eye, without any forewarning. While sometimes they may occur in more expected places—such as car accidents occurring while driving on the highway—there are sometimes where Maryland residents are injured, through no fault of their own, out of nowhere. These accidents can be incredibly frustrating for the victim and their families, as they are suddenly injured, have to pay medical bills, might miss work, and may deal with long-lasting physical ailments as well as mental and psychological pain.

For example, take a recent shocking Maryland accident reported by the Baltimore Sun. According to the news article, a car crashed through a front window area of the Parkville Crabs restaurant in Baltimore County one afternoon. It is believed that the driver accidentally hit the gas pedal in the parking lot, causing them to drive through the front of the restaurant unexpectedly. A 35-year-old woman inside was killed after being hit by debris from the crash. Investigators are still looking into the accident and working on an accident reconstruction to figure out exactly what happened, but believe that it was not intentional. Instead, it is thought to be just a tragic and unfortunate mistake.

This fatal accident is just one example of something that can happen unexpectedly and change a life in an instant. While nothing can undo the damage that these accidents cause, and there is no way to fully prevent each and every one from happening in the first place, Maryland state law does at least allow victims one course to recovery. Those injured can file what is called a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent individual or company who caused the accident.

Dogs are man’s best friend, but sometimes these animals can cause serious harm to individuals when they get aggressive, attack, or bite them. While many people do not consider dogs to be a risk, Maryland dog bites are so common that there is a body of law in the state specifically allowing those hurt by someone else’s dog to sue dog owners for negligence. This does not mean that every dog is a danger, but it is important to be aware of your legal rights when dog bites occur.

For an example of a legal case resulting from a dog bite, take a recent state appellate court opinion. According to the court’s written opinion, the dog bite occurred when the plaintiff’s five-year-old son visited his neighbors’ house to play with their daughter. Their neighbors had two dogs, and usually would put them in crates or in the other room when the son came over to play. But one time, the dogs were not put away, and the five-year-old returned home at some point with a bite on his leg from one of them. The next day, the plaintiffs found out that it had been over a year since the dog had been vaccinated for rabies. The child was treated for his injuries, and also had to receive a series of rabies shots.

Maryland Code section 3-1901 covers personal injuries and deaths caused by a dog. Importantly, Maryland creates a system of strict liability. While some jurisdictions are a bit more lenient for dog owners, and may make the plaintiff prove in court that the owner knew that the dog had vicious or dangerous tendencies (and was likely to attack), Maryland imposes a stricter standard. According to state law, in actions against dog owners for personal injury or death caused by a dog, it is enough to show “evidence that the dog caused the personal injury or death.” Presenting this evidence creates “a rebuttable presumption that the owner knew or should have known that the dog had vicious or dangerous propensities.”

If a person is injured on property owned by a business, the business might be liable for the person’s injuries, depending on the circumstances. Business owners owe customers and guests a duty to exercise ordinary care to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition. To prevail on a Maryland premises liability claim, a plaintiff must prove that a dangerous condition existed on the defendant’s premises, the defendant had a duty to the plaintiff, the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the condition, the defendant’s knowledge existed for long enough that the defendant had the opportunity to remove it or to warn the plaintiff, and the defendant’s failure to act caused the plaintiff’s injury.

A plaintiff must demonstrate that a defective condition existed for long enough that the defendant had a duty to inspect to discover the defect and remedy it. The purpose of the requirement is to ensure that the dangerous condition existed for long enough that the defendant should have discovered it and to determine the amount of time the hazards were present between inspections.

In a recent case before a state appellate court, the court held that a business owner may be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries after she fell on a tree root outside the business. In that case, the plaintiff was walking to the Chick-fil-A restaurant and tripped on the partially-exposed root, injuring two bones in her leg. The plaintiff had walked to the restaurant from her job nearby many times before by walking across a dirt area she and other pedestrians used to access the restaurant’s parking lot. According to the evidence, the root stuck out about two inches and was not in this condition four days prior, when a landscaping crew had inspected the area for tripping hazards.

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