The Issue of Government Immunity in Maryland Personal Injury Cases

Whenever someone is injured due to the negligence of another person or entity, the injured party is entitled to pursue a claim for compensation through a Maryland personal injury lawsuit. However, based on longstanding constitutional principles, government agencies enjoy immunity from some of these lawsuits. Thus, one of the most important considerations after a Maryland accident is whether any of the defendants are government employees and, if so, whether they may be entitled to immunity.

Under Maryland case law, government agencies are entitled to immunity when carrying out discretionary duties. A discretionary duty, as the name implies, is one which involves the exercise of discretion. If an act is not discretionary, it is ministerial, meaning that it does not require the judgment of a government employee. A recent case illustrates how courts approach the distinction between ministerial and discretionary acts.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, a young girl was planning on attending a field trip to a pool that was located in a government-owned park. Because the young girl could not swim, her mother spoke with the playground coordinator, who reassured her that the girl’s ability would be assessed in the shallow end of the pool. The mother agreed to let her daughter go on the field trip. Tragically, however, the young girl drowned in the pool as staff members were changing in the locker room.

The girl’s family filed a wrongful death case against the local parks and recreation department overseeing pool. The department argued that the plaintiffs’ case must be dismissed because, as a government agency, it was entitled to governmental immunity.

The Court’s Opinion

The court rejected the department’s assertion that it was entitled to immunity, and allowed the plaintiff’s case to proceed towards trial. The court first noted that, as a general matter, government agencies have immunity from personal injury claims. However, the court then went on to explain that there is an exception when injuries or death are caused by a “known danger.” The court explained that a government has a ministerial duty to protect citizens from known dangers.

Here, the court authoritatively stated that “the danger associated with bringing a young child who cannot swim to a busy water park along with 76 other children is apparent.” The court seemed especially convinced by the fact that the park coordinator “did nothing” with the information provided by the girl’s mother. That being the case, the court determined that the department was not entitled to government immunity and allowed the plaintiff’s case to proceed.

Have You Been Injured?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured while in a public park or while on other government-owned property, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Maryland premises liability lawsuit. At the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, we have extensive experience assisting clients in successfully bringing claims against both government and non-government landowners. To learn more about how we can help you pursue a claim for compensation, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Not All Maryland Liability Release Waivers Are Enforceable, Maryland Accident Law Blog, January 2, 2019.

Determining Liability in Maryland Sports Injury Cases, Maryland Accident Law Blog, December 24, 2018.

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