On this blog, we talk about a wide variety of Maryland accidents, including slip and falls, car accidents and medical malpractice cases. The general premise behind all Maryland personal injury lawsuits is the same: state law allows those injured due to someone else’s negligence to recover financially by bringing a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent parties. However, it is important to keep in mind that different types of personal injury lawsuits may be grounded in the same basic idea but subject to very different procedural requirements. This is especially true for medical malpractice cases. Failure to follow the proper requirements could result in a plaintiff’s Maryland medical malpractice suit being thrown out, even if it would otherwise have been a winning case.

For example, take a recent state supreme court case which considered the procedural requirements for filing a medical malpractice suit. The case arose when the plaintiff sued a spa and its employee after allegedly being sexually assaulted during her massage in April of 2014. The plaintiff sued the spa (the massage therapist’s employer) for negligence in the training, supervision, and retention of the massage therapist. The defendant spa, in response, filed a motion for summary judgment. The spa argued that the plaintiff had not met the procedural requirements for filing a medical malpractice suit, since they had not filed the required certificate of good faith with the complaint. The question before the court was whether the common knowledge exception to the requirement applied—whether laypersons, using their common knowledge and without expert testimony, could decide whether the spa was negligent. If so, then the certificate was not needed because the case would not be subject to the requirement. If not, then the certificate was needed to file suit and the plaintiff’s suit must be dismissed. The common knowledge exception is common in many states, including Maryland.

The state supreme court ultimately determined that the common knowledge exception applied because no expert testimony was needed to decide this case. The court noted that the plaintiff was not claiming that the massage therapist negligently performed the massage, used improper technique, used excessive force, or anything of that nature. As such, no expert testimony was needed on the proper standard of care for massage therapists, force to be applied, or techniques. The question is one of sexual assault—which does not involve the technical or specialized knowledge of a medical professional. As such, the defendant’s motion for summary judgment had to be denied, and thus the plaintiff could move forward with her claim.

Expert testimony is essential in many Maryland car accident cases. Under Maryland law, expert testimony may be admissible if the court rules that the expert testimony will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to decide a fact at issue in the case. Under Rule 5-702, a court must decide whether the witness is qualified as an expert based on the witness’s knowledge, experience, education, skill, or training, whether the expert testimony is appropriate, and whether there is a sufficient factual basis for the testimony.

Expert testimony is essential in cases where an issue is beyond the “common knowledge” of a layperson. One recent decision from a federal court of appeals shows a trial court’s improper exclusion of expert testimony doomed a plaintiff’s case, resulting in a judgment in favor of the defendants.

In that case, the plaintiff was hit by an SUV in a construction-affected area. The defendant, an architectural firm, was hired to redesign traffic in the area to safely control the traffic of vehicles and pedestrians in the area. A construction company installed a temporary concrete barrier along one part of the sidewalk. The pedestrian was crossing the street in the area and was hit head-on by a vehicle, rendering him a quadriplegic. The plaintiff filed suit against entities involved in the construction project, including the architectural firm.

Most people know that when someone is injured in a Maryland accident of any kind, state law allows them to file a lawsuit against the negligent party. These personal injury suits can arise from car accidents, defective products, slip and fall accidents, or even dog bites. One type of claim is called a medical malpractice lawsuit, which arises from negligence on the part of a medical professional. For instance, if a surgery goes poorly because the surgeon was reckless, or if a medical professional fails to follow safety protocol when administering medication, they may be held liable in a medical malpractice lawsuit. These claims, however, can sometimes be more procedurally complicated, which can create barriers for plaintiffs if they do not follow procedural requirements carefully.

For example, take a recent state appellate case concerning the procedural requirements for filing a medical malpractice suit. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was the personal representative of the deceased’s estate. The deceased was in treatment at a hospital and receiving seven medications when she was transferred to a residential treatment facility. The hospital provided the treatment facility with the prescriptions for the medications, but not the medications themselves. The facility did not administer any of the drugs, and four days after the transfer, the patient died—allegedly from “a severe withdrawal syndrome.” The plaintiff brought suit against the hospital and the facility, alleging that they were negligent and either knew or should have known that suddenly failing to administer the medications was likely to cause severe withdrawal symptoms, including heart arrhythmias and seizures that could lead to her death.

In response, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint for failing to comply with the requirements of a medical malpractice action. Many states have specific procedural requirements that a plaintiff must meet to file a medical malpractice suit. The defendants argued that the plaintiff did not meet these requirements, but the plaintiff in response argued that they did not need to meet these requirements because they were filing a claim for ordinary negligence, not medical malpractice. The trial judge denied the motion to dismiss, agreeing with the plaintiff that the complaint could be for ordinary negligence. On appeal, however, the appellate court reversed. The court found that a medical malpractice suit is one that arises from an act directly related to medical care or services, and that required the use of professional judgment or skill. In this case, the plaintiff’s claims clearly arose from such acts—the failure to render medical care or services. Because the court found that the claim was a medical malpractice one, and not an ordinary negligence one, the plaintiff was required to conform to other procedural requirements. The motion to dismiss was thus granted, since the plaintiff failed to do so.

In a Maryland malpractice case, a plaintiff may be able to bring a suit against a provider’s employer under the doctrine of respondeat superior, or vicarious liability. Vicarious liability allows an employer to be held liable for the acts of its employees, even without any fault on the part of the employer. Rather, the employer may be held liable based solely only on the employer-employee relationship. Generally, an employer may be held liable for the wrongful acts of an employee if the employee is acting in the scope of their employment. The doctrine is intended to hold employers accountable and because many times they can bear the financial burden better than an individual employee.

A state court recently heard a medical malpractice case involving the alleged vicarious liability of two different employers. In that case, the plaintiff underwent laparoscopic abdominal surgery at a hospital. She was admitted to the hospital after the surgery and her condition deteriorated. A second surgery was conducted, during which time they discovered a perforation in the plaintiff’s small bowel. She suffered catastrophic injuries that required her to undergo multiple surgeries and to be hospitalized for five months.

The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the surgeon, the hospital, and the university that employed the surgeon. The plaintiff argued that the surgeon had perforated her small bowel during the first surgery, and that the staff failed to timely diagnose her condition and begin treatment. The university argued that the surgeon did not deviate from the standard of care during the surgery. It also argued that even if the surgeon did deviate from the standard of care, the plaintiff’s injuries were a result of the hospital staff’s failure to timely administer antibiotics.

Generally, landowners owe a duty of care to people who come on their land, the extent of which depends on the relationship between the parties and the circumstances of the incident. Maryland’s Recreational Use Statute is an exception in that, when the statute applies, a landowner owes no duty of care to others, allowing them to escape liability in a Maryland premises liability case.

A recent case is an example of how landowners may avoid liability in such cases. In that case, a woman was injured while she was attending a free concert at a university. As she had been leaving the concert, she fell on a staircase with no handrails. She sustained serious injuries and died as a result. Her estate and her children filed a wrongful death claim against the university.

The university claimed that it was immune from suit under the state’s Recreational Property Act. Under the state’s law, a landowner does not have a duty to keep premises safe if others are using the land for recreational purposes. The concert took place at a county park, but the university had a permit to use it for the concert series. The woman’s family agreed that attending the free concert was a recreational activity. However, the family argued that the purpose of the concert series was mostly commercial. They noted that there were food and drinks available for purchase, that sponsors had tents and logos, and that it provided the university with a branding opportunity.

Most Maryland residents know that when someone else causes them to be injured, the state’s law protects them by allowing them to file a personal injury lawsuit. For instance, if Driver A runs a red light and hits Driver B, Driver B can sue Driver A to recover for their injuries. If a manufacturer sells a defective product to a customer that causes them to get hurt, the customer can sue the manufacturer. Most of these cases have a clear cause and effect — the defendant (negligent party) takes some action that causes the plaintiff to get hurt. Recovering may be complicated, however, for those who are injured in a Maryland slip and fall accident. Unlike many other personal injury lawsuits, these are often caused by a defendant failing to do something, rather than some action that they took.

Take, for example, the facts of a recent state appellate case. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff, a grandmother, was staying at the defendant’s hotel with her four grandchildren, whom she took to the hotel pool one evening. At some point, she left the pool to escort her youngest grandson to the bathroom, walking along the sidewalk from the pool to the hotel room. According to the plaintiff’s testimony, the sidewalk was shiny, wet, and looked slick. The plaintiff told her grandson, who was dripping wet and walking in front of her, to slow down. While walking, she slipped and fell, suffering multiple injuries to the left side of her body.

Under Maryland premises liability law, the injured plaintiff, in this case, may be able to hold the hotel owner responsible. State law requires hotel owners, and other landowners, to take reasonable care in maintaining their property, and to warn guests of any known dangers. For instance, if the plaintiff could show that the hotel knew that the area in question was prone to getting very slippery and dangerous, and yet decided not to put up a sign warning of said fact, they may be successful in their personal injury suit.

Interrogatories are part of the discovery process in a civil case. An interrogatory is a series of written questions asked by one party to another, which must be answered in writing. In Maryland motor vehicle accident cases, any party may serve written interrogatories to another party. The receiving party must answer interrogatories within 30 days after service or within 15 days after the date after the date when the party’s initial pleading or motion is required, whichever is later. Responses must be made under oath.

A recent case before a federal appeals court shows how failing to answer interrogatories completely and honestly can lead to much bigger problems down the road. In that case, a van had slipped off the edge of a roadway while carrying six family members—all were injured, and one family member died. The crash took place in a construction zone, where a guardrail had been removed and had not been replaced. The lines on the road also had not been repainted where it had been repaved, and there were pieces of asphalt on the shoulder.

The family sued the two construction companies that had repaved the road. The defense attorney for the companies told the plaintiffs that the two companies had a joint venture with a $1 million insurance policy. The defense attorney sent initial disclosures under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26. In the disclosures, concerning the defendants’ insurance coverage, they listed the joint venture’s $1 million policy as their only insurance coverage. The parties settled for $1 million and signed a release stating that they were not relying on any statements by any parties’ attorneys.

When someone slips and falls in public in Maryland, they may feel embarrassed and try to pretend that it never happened. Often, they will just assume that it was their fault, and go about their day. Even if injured, they might think that it is their fault because no one pushed them or tripped them, and they were the only ones around when they fell. While sometimes people fall or trip for no reason, oftentimes, falls are the result of a hazardous or dangerous condition. For example, people may fall because of a sticky or slippery substance on the floor, the floor not being even, or different heights between steps. In these cases, it may not be their fault at all, but rather the fault of those who own or maintain the property.

Maryland law allows those injured in such cases to file a certain type of negligence lawsuit against the owner of the property: premises liability. To be held responsible, a court must find that property owners either knew or should have known about the dangerous condition, but yet did not fix it or warn you about it. Additionally, a court must find that the plaintiff was not a trespasser on the property—a property owner does not owe a duty of care to those who are on their property illegally.

For an example of a premises liability claim, take a recent appellate case concerning a plasma donation center. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was a donor at the center and was walking into the bathroom when he fell, hit his head on a sink, and suffered severe injuries. According to the plaintiff, when he was laying on the floor he noticed that there was liquid on it, and some of that liquid got onto his shirt. He also stated that he noticed dirty footprints in the liquid. He filed a premises liability suit against the plasma donation center, alleging that they either knew or should have known about the liquid on the floor, and that it created a dangerous condition. Evidence presented in this suit included testimony that the employees of the center used separate bathrooms, and that the bathrooms were generally not cleaned by the center until after 7 p.m. each night, meaning the center would not have known about the liquid.

Going on a cruise is supposed to be a fun, relaxing, and rejuvenating experience. Many Maryland residents choose to go on cruises to relax and spend time with family and loved ones. However, just as they can onshore, accidents can happen on cruise ships, leaving passengers seriously injured. When this happens because of a cruise line’s negligence, passengers may be able to bring a personal injury lawsuit against the cruise line to recover for the injuries they suffered. These types of suits are often referred to as premises liability, because they are a way of holding owners responsible for accidents that occur on their premises.

For example, take a recent federal appellate case. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was a passenger on a cruise ship and was walking with her husband to one of the restaurants on board the ship. To get to the restaurant, the passengers had to walk through a narrow opening between some lounge chairs on the deck and the ship’s railing. While walking, the plaintiff’s foot got caught on a leg of a lounge chair, causing her to slip and fall. She suffered serious injuries as a result of this incident, and so she sued the cruise ship line to recover for her medical bills and her pain and suffering. The plaintiff’s complaint alleged that the cruise line knew or should have known about the dangerous condition on the ship, and was negligent in not warning passengers about it. In response, the defendant cruise line moved for summary judgment, arguing in part that they did not know and should not have known about the condition. The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment, but the plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the appellate court considered whether the defendant cruise line had notice or should have had notice of the condition, and determined that they did. Importantly, the plaintiff presented evidence that the cruise line took corrective action to make the situation less dangerous, by requiring the lounge chairs to be set up in the upright position, thus protruding less into the walkway. The cruise line also had employees monitor the area and put the chairs back upright if they were lowered by passengers. This evidence was sufficient to defeat summary judgment, as it is not clear that the cruise ship definitely did not know about the condition. The court reversed the grant of summary judgment and remanded the case back to the trial court. This ruling allowed the plaintiff to move forward with the case and, hopefully, to receive monetary compensation from the cruise line responsible for her injuries.

In highly regulated industries like the pharmaceutical industry, medicines typically undergo rigorous testing to ensure the safety of the drug before it goes on the market. But even drugs that have been on the market for years may later prove to be dangerous. Consumers that have been injured after taking a drug they believed to be safe may be entitled to compensation for their injuries through a Maryland product liability claim.

A “failure to warn” claim in Maryland is based on the contention that a defendant failed to adequately warn consumers of the risks involved with a product. In a claim involving a pharmaceutical drug, a manufacturer may be liable for failing to disclose the side effects of a drug or failing to disclose an unreasonably dangerous condition, for example. In general, a manufacturer is responsible for warning consumers of the risks of using a product, unless the risks are so obvious or well known that a warning is not required. Warnings must clear, direct, and easy to understand. Maryland courts will consider the knowledge and expertise of consumers in deciding whether a consumer can reasonably be expected to understand the risks of the product.

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