If an insurance company refuses to cover your injuries after a Maryland car accident case, you may have to take legal action. In some situations, you may be able to recover your attorney’s fees and court costs in bringing the lawsuit. In an April 16, 2019 case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered whether an auto insurance company should have been ordered to pay the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees and costs after she successfully obtained a settlement.
The plaintiff in the case was injured in a motor vehicle collision in Maryland. The driver who caused the accident was in a rental car at the time. He was insured by the defendant insurance company under a policy issued to him in West Virginia, which provided liability coverage up to $20,000. Following the accident, the plaintiff filed a personal injury suit against the driver. The defendant offered to settle the suit for the coverage limits of the driver’s policy. The plaintiff refused the settlement offer, asserting that because the accident occurred in Maryland, the other driver should have been covered for up to $30,000 for bodily injury liability.
The plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment from the court to establish that $30,000 of liability coverage was available to her under the other driver’s insurance policy. The defendant ultimately offered her $30,000 to settle the case, which she accepted. The plaintiff then filed a motion for attorneys’ fees and costs based upon the declaratory judgment action she had pursued against the defendant. When the court denied the request, the plaintiff appealed.
In Maryland, if an insured person must resort to litigation to enforce her insurer’s contractual duty to provide coverage for a claim that potentially falls within her policy, the insured may recover her attorneys’ fees and expenses from litigating the issue. The defendant argued that this rule did not apply to the instant case, as it was not the plaintiff’s insurer.
The appeals court first looked to the language of the other driver’s insurance policy to determine the scope of the insurance coverage. The court concluded that under the detailed definition provided in the contract, the plaintiff was not considered an “insured” for the purposes of coverage.
The plaintiff then asserted that she was a third-party beneficiary to the policy, and as such, she could enforce its provisions and recover her costs. To recover under the terms of a contract as a third-party beneficiary or an incidental beneficiary, an individual must show that the parties to the contract clearly intended that the third party benefit from it. An incidental beneficiary, one who receives a benefit from a contract that was not planned by the contracting parties, has no rights against the contracting parties. The court determined that the plaintiff was merely an incidental beneficiary of the policy because it clearly was not created to benefit her. Accordingly, the court found that there was no basis under which the plaintiff could recoup her attorney’s fees.
At Foran & Foran, P.A., our Maryland injury attorneys have the experience and knowledge to help you recover your losses after an accident. We understand that mounting medical bills and time off work can lead to financial hardship and will work tirelessly to pursue the compensation you deserve. Request a free consultation to discuss an auto accident case, premises liability case, medical malpractice action, or another negligence claim by calling (301) 441-2022 or contacting us online.
Some personal injury actions are complicated due to the involvement of multiple defendants and competing theories of liability. In an April 3, 2019 Maryland car accident case, the Court of Special Appeals reviewed a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff, which resulted in a judgment against the two defendants.
The plaintiff in the case was injured in a three-car accident. The first defendant owned the vehicle that caused a chain reaction collision. On the night of the accident, the first defendant was socializing at a restaurant bar with a man she had met that night. Believing that she was too intoxicated to drive, she allowed the man to drive her vehicle because she had not seen him consume any drinks. During the drive, the man began driving erratically and at an excessive rate of speed. While being pursued by police, the first defendant’s vehicle struck the median past a traffic intersection and became airborne, traveling over three other cars before crashing into the side of the street.
The plaintiff alleged that, after the first defendant’s vehicle came to a stop, the second defendant’s vehicle suddenly accelerated through the intersection, hit the median, and struck the front driver’s side of her vehicle. Throughout the case, the second defendant maintained that he was rendered unconscious as a result of being hit by the first defendant’s vehicle, and that his incapacitation led him to strike the plaintiff’s vehicle. The plaintiff testified that she could not determine whether the second defendant was unconscious as his vehicle approached hers, nor could she recall how much time had passed after the first defendant crashed and when the second defendant’s vehicle struck her car.
After trial, the jury found both defendants to be negligent, but found that the second defendant’s negligence was excused by his sudden and unforeseen incapacity. The plaintiff was awarded $50,000. The parties filed cross-appeals, arguing several grounds for reversal. One of the issues presented for review was whether the second defendant’s defense of sudden incapacity should have been submitted to the jury.
In Maryland, sudden incapacity may be an affirmative defense against a claim of negligence resulting from a motor vehicle collision. To establish the sudden incapacity, the defendant must show that there was a sudden and unforeseen incapacity that rendered him unable to avoid or prevent the accident causing the injury. An unforeseen incapacity is one that a reasonable person would not have any reason to anticipate.
The appeals court found that there was sufficient evidence to present the issue to the jury. The court pointed to the injuries on top of the defendant’s head and his medical records, which showed that he had suffered a loss of consciousness. The court also noted that the damage to the roof of his car was substantial and consistent with being struck by an airborne vehicle. The court went on to affirm the verdict as determined by the jury.
The Maryland auto injury attorneys at Foran & Foran, P.A. can provide trustworthy advice to people who have been hurt in a car, semi-truck, or motorcycle accident. We also handle a diverse range of other personal injury cases arising out of negligence, including medical malpractice and premises liability actions. To discuss your legal matter with one of our experienced attorneys, call our office at (301) 441-2022 or contact us online and request a free consultation.
In a Maryland medical malpractice case, the jury instructions are generally important for members of the jury to understand and apply the law to the evidence presented at trial. Sometimes, the instructions provided to the jury may be grounds for appeal. In January 25, 2019 opinion, the Court of Appeals of Maryland considered whether it was improper for the trial court to give instructions on both the standard of care for general negligence and the higher standard of care for a physician in a medical malpractice case.
The plaintiff in the case had sought medical treatment from the defendant after he experienced numbness in his fingers and intermittent neck and shoulder pain. The defendant recommended surgery to remove damaged discs from the plaintiff’s spine and fused vertebrae in his neck. After the defendant had performed the surgery, the plaintiff developed an infection at the location of the operation. The plaintiff was hospitalized as a result of the infection, and remained hampered by a severely limited range of motion.
The plaintiff sued the defendant for medical negligence and failure to obtain informed consent. At trial, the court gave the jury a general instruction on negligence using the reasonable person standard, i.e., that negligence is failing to use the caution, attention, or skill of a reasonable person would use under similar circumstances. The court also gave an instruction that specifically addressed the negligence of a health care provider, which read: a health care provider is negligent if he does not use that degree of care and skill which a reasonably competent health care provider engaged in a similar practice and acting in similar circumstances would use. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff on the first count for medical negligence.
The defendant appealed the verdict on several grounds. One of the arguments was that the trial court should not have included both the general and specific jury instructions. The Court of Appeals concluded that it was neither wrong as a matter of law, nor misleading to advise jurors of the general principles governing negligence cases as a preface to the more specific standard for a physician or health care provider. The court conceded, however, that without clarification, using a general negligence instruction in a medical malpractice action did have the potential to confuse the jury.
In this particular case, the court concluded that issue of the standard of care was consistently presented throughout the trial as that of a medical professional, and that even if the jury had applied the reasonable person standard, it would only have benefited the defendant, since it was a much lower standard of care. After reviewing the defendant’s other grounds, the court affirmed the jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff.
At Foran & Foran, P.A., our attorneys understand that victims of medical malpractice and negligence may be concerned about the future costs arising from their injuries. Our Maryland personal injury lawyers work tirelessly to help plaintiffs and their families seek compensation from those responsible for their situation. Call our office at (301) 441-2022 or contact us online to discuss a car accident injury or another personal injury caused by negligence.
Accidents involving power tools or other dangerous equipment may result in serious and life-altering injuries. In a February 19, 2019 case, the plaintiff brought a Maryland negligence claim against the defendant after suffering an injury that ended his career as a surgeon. Following an eight-day trial, the jury found that the defendant was not negligent. The plaintiff appealed to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.
The plaintiff and defendant were both orthopedic surgeons at the same hospital. The accident occurred during a bilateral knee replacement surgery, in which the plaintiff was operating on the patient’s left knee, while the defendant simultaneously operated on the patient’s right knee. During the procedure, a surgical technician handed the defendant a loaded pin driver in order to place a pin into the patient’s bone. As the defendant brought the pin driver forward, it made contact with the plaintiff’s left elbow.
Shortly after the incident, the plaintiff felt weakness and a loss of sensation in his left arm and hand along with poor coordination and restricted movement. Thereafter, the plaintiff learned that his nerve was permanently damaged and could not be repaired with surgery. The hospital considered the plaintiff disabled and terminated his contract.
Days before trial, the plaintiff learned that a previously unidentified person was present in the operating room when the accident occurred. After locating the witness, the plaintiff asked the judge to allow her to testify, despite the fact that she had not been listed as a witness by the discovery deadline. The judge denied the motion. On appeal, the plaintiff asserted that it was an err to exclude the eyewitness from testifying at trial.
Maryland courts consider the following factors when determining whether to exclude witness testimony due to discovery violations: (1) whether the disclosure violation was technical or substantial; (2) the timing of the disclosure; (3) the reason for the violation; (4) the degree of prejudice to each party; (5) whether any resulting prejudice might be cured by a continuance.
The appeals court found that the trial judge had properly considered these factors in the decision to exclude the witness testimony. The court agreed that the defendant would suffer extreme prejudice if the witness testified, as the defendant would not have the opportunity to test her credibility. In addition, continuing the trial was not an option, as it had already started when the plaintiff sought to call the witness. The court went on to deny the plaintiff’s remaining grounds for appeal and affirmed the jury’s verdict in favor of the defendant.
At Foran & Foran, P.A., our Maryland personal injury lawyers represent plaintiffs in legal actions and help them recover damages from the liable parties after an accident. We have litigated cases arising out of automobile and motorcycle collisions, slip and fall accidents, medical negligence, wrongful death claims, and other personal injuries caused by negligence. Contact our office by phone at (301) 441-2022 or online and request a free consultation with one of our skilled injury lawyers.
Personal injuries may arise out of many diverse situations, including the workplace. In some cases, if someone caused an injury while on the job, their employer may be held liable for negligent hiring and supervision. In a February 21, 2019 case, three students brought a Maryland negligence claim against the school board based on the conduct of one of its employees. The students’ claims against the school board were dismissed by the circuit court, but they ultimately prevailed on their claims against the employee.
The case arose out of an incident between the students and a school police officer. The students alleged that, for no apparent reason, the officer had physically assaulted them with her hands, pepper spray, and her baton. The officer later pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree assault. The students filed lawsuits against the officer for assault and against the school board for negligent hiring, retention, supervision, and credentialing.
The circuit court dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims against the school board with prejudice, following a summary judgment motion. The matter proceeded to trial on their claims against the officer. The jury ultimately found that the officer had violated the constitutional rights of the students and awarded them damages totaling $280,000. The plaintiffs subsequently asked the school board to satisfy the judgments. When the school board refused, the students filed a motion with the circuit court, arguing that the board must indemnify the officer because the acts were committed within the scope of her employment. The court granted the motion, and the school board appealed.
In Maryland, a school board’s sovereign immunity is partially waived in some situations provided by statute. Under Section 5-518, a lawsuit in tort may be brought directly against an employee if the employee was acting within the scope of her employment, without malice or gross negligence, and the school board is joined as a party. Any judgment would be entered against both the employee and school board, although the judgment would only be executed against the school board and not against the employee, individually.
On appeal, the court noted that the plaintiffs’ claims for indemnification had been dismissed by the circuit court when it granted summary judgment in favor of the school board. Because the plaintiffs did not appeal the summary judgment decision, or argue that the school board’s ongoing presence was required to satisfy an indemnification obligation, the appeals court held that the issue of indemnification could not now be re-litigated. Concluding that the instant motion to execute the judgment against the school board was barred, the appeals court ruled in favor of the school board.
At Foran & Foran, P.A., our Maryland personal injury lawyers can provide legal advice to individuals who have been damaged by the negligence of another person or business. We pursue compensation on behalf of plaintiffs in medical malpractice claims, car and truck collision cases, premises liability actions, and more. Schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced negligence attorneys by calling (301) 441-2022 or contacting us online.
Under Maryland premises liability law, a landlord may be held responsible if its negligence caused a personal injury to a tenant. In a March 1, 2019 case, the plaintiff filed a Maryland negligence claim against his landlord after he was assaulted on the premises. A lower court held that under the circumstances alleged by the plaintiff, the defendant did not have a duty to protect the plaintiff from criminal activity. The plaintiff appealed the ruling to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.
The plaintiff in the case paid the defendant a monthly free to park his ice cream truck on its premises. After parking his truck one night, the plaintiff was robbed and shot multiple times by two armed assailants. The plaintiff argued that, due to a prior robbery that had occurred in the parking lot several years ago, the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty to protect him from the foreseeable risk of harm of the robbery.
In Maryland, a negligence claim requires four elements: (1) the defendant was under a duty to protect the plaintiff from injury, (2) the defendant breached that duty, (3) the plaintiff suffered an injury, and (4) the injury was caused by the defendant’s breach of duty.
A landlord has a duty of reasonable care to keep the premises safe and to protect against known, or reasonably foreseeable, risks. Generally, there is no special duty under Maryland law requiring a landlord to protect its tenants from criminal acts committed by third parties on its property. However, if the landlord knows, or should know, of criminal activity against individuals or property in the common areas, the landlord then has a duty to take reasonable measures, in view of the existing circumstances, to eliminate the conditions contributing to the criminal activity. This duty arises primarily from actual criminal activities existing on the landlord’s premises and not from knowledge of general criminal activities in the neighborhood.
On appeal, the court noted that on the day of the robbery, the defendant had cameras surveilling the parking lot, a barbed wire fence, and security personnel patrolling the premises. The court held that the sole instance of a similar crime that had occurred nine years ago and did not involve harm to the victim was insufficient, as a matter of law, to create a duty for the defendant to provide security measures to prevent the conditions that led to the plaintiff’s injuries. Accordingly, the judgment in favor of the defendant was affirmed.
If you are seeking legal recourse after an accident, the Maryland injury attorneys at Foran & Foran, P.A. can advise you of your options. We represent plaintiffs in medical malpractice actions, premises liability claims, car and motorcycle accident cases, and other personal injury suits arising out of negligence. Call our office at (301) 441-2022 or contact us online to request a free consultation with one of our experienced lawyers.
In some Maryland personal injury cases, the plaintiffs may have multiple, alternative theories of negligence that could establish the defendant’s liability. The case cannot be dismissed before trial unless the defendant shows that the plaintiffs could not prevail on any of their theories. In a February 26, 2019 case before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, the plaintiffs argued that their alternative theory of negligence had not been addressed by the circuit court when it dismissed their case against the defendants.
The plaintiffs in the case had attended a celebration held by the Baltimore Ravens and the City of Baltimore for their Super Bowl victory in 2013. A victory parade was planned from City Hall to the stadium, where fans were invited to a free event following the parade. On the day of the event, the stadium had reached capacity before the parade even started. The stadium gates were ordered closed by the fire marshal, but remained unlocked in case of an emergency. The plaintiffs were standing outside the stadium when someone announced that the gate near them was open. A crowd then surged toward the gate, knocking over and trampling the plaintiffs, injuring them both.
The plaintiffs filed a negligence action against the Ravens, the stadium owners, and the crowd-control contractor. The plaintiffs asserted two alternative theories of negligence. One, that the defendants failed to anticipate the reasonably foreseeable, large crowd they had invited to the stadium, and then failed to take reasonable safety precautions to control the crowd, which created a hazardous condition. Second, after the unprecedented public crowd had arrived, the defendants failed to warn of the danger, or to make a reasonable effort to eliminate the danger. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, finding that the defendants did not have notice of any dangerous conditions at the stadium.
In Maryland, businesses have an affirmative duty to protect invitees against dangers that arise from unsafe conditions on the physical property, as well as dangers caused by the negligence of others where such negligent acts could be reasonably anticipated. After reviewing the case, the appeals court determined that the circuit court’s ruling did not address whether the defendants should have reasonably foreseen a crowd of the size that had attended, and that they had invited.
The appeals court went on to conclude that the ruling also did not address whether the defendants had taken appropriate safety precautions in light of the highly publicized, unticketed event. Accordingly, the appeals court reversed the judgment and remanded the case back to circuit court for the plaintiffs to proceed with their suit.
If you are seeking experienced legal representation after an accident, contact the Maryland injury attorneys at Foran & Foran. We can provide trustworthy advice to negligence victims and their families regarding premises liability actions, medical malpractice claims, and many other personal injury cases. Request your free consultation with a knowledgeable Maryland lawyer by calling (301) 441-2022 or submitting our website contact form online.
In many situations, the victims of negligence may recover their damages by filing a Maryland legal claim against those responsible. One of the few exceptions concerns governmental immunity. In a February 22, 2019 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals examined whether a local county could be sued under the circumstances presented in a Maryland wrongful death case.
In the summer of 2016, a 911 call center experienced a service outage in the county that lasted approximately one hour and forty-five minutes. During the outage, the decedent suffered a medical emergency. The plaintiffs alleged that they and other friends and family had called 911 repeatedly, for over an hour, but were unable to get through. Eventually they were connected with emergency services and rescue personal subsequently responded to the scene. Tragically, the decedent could not be revived, and he passed away.
In their suit, the plaintiffs claimed that the county was negligent in maintaining the air conditioning unit that had failed and caused the 911 service outage, which in turn, allegedly caused the decedent’s death. The circuit court dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims, ruling that the county was immune from suit and that the county officials, named as individual defendants, did not owe a duty to the plaintiffs or the decedent. The plaintiffs appealed the decision to the higher court.
In Maryland, a local government is immune from tort liability when it functions in a governmental capacity. It has no such immunity for its activities that are private or proprietary in nature. A governmental function is one that is sanctioned by legislative authority, has no element of private interest, and is conducted solely for the public benefit or welfare of the community. If the municipality receives a profit or has a private stake in the function, it is not governmental.
On appeal, the court concluded that maintenance of the 911 system and its buildings was a governmental function. The court noted that Maryland law requires each county to operate a 911 system and provide public access to police, fire, and ambulance services through that system. It was undisputed that the 911 system provides a public safety benefit and promotes the welfare of the public. The court also found no evidence that the county derived a profit or benefit from the 911 system. Accordingly, the court ruled that the county was immune from liability for the death of the plaintiffs’ son.
The court went on to hold that because the individual defendants did not create or continue the risk of harm, they owed a duty of ordinary care to the decedent, not an affirmative duty to protect or aid him. As such, and without evidence of defendants’ failure to exercise ordinary care, negligence could not be established. The court therefore affirmed the order dismissing the case.
At Foran & Foran, P.A., our Maryland personal injury lawyers can assist people seeking recourse after an accident caused by negligence. We can provide legal guidance regarding wrongful death actions, premises liability lawsuits, medical negligence and healthcare claims, auto accident injuries, and more. Schedule your free consultation today by calling (301) 441-2022 or contacting Foran & Foran online.
In some in Maryland car accident cases, the evidence presented to a jury may have a significant impact on the outcome of the trial. In a February 12, 2019 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered whether evidence of prior auto accident injuries was irrelevant or prejudicial to a plaintiff seeking underinsured motorist benefits from his auto insurance company.
The plaintiff in the case was rear-ended at low speed while his vehicle was stopped at a red light. Later that day, the plaintiff sought medical treatment for pain in his neck, back, knees, hips, elbows, and for nausea and headaches. He underwent an MRI, which revealed preexisting, degenerative changes to his neck and back. Over the next several years, the plaintiff intermittently received medical treatment for the pain.
The plaintiff filed a lawsuit for underinsured motorist benefits against his insurer, as the policy limits of the at-fault motorist did not cover all of his damages. Before trial, the plaintiff filed a motion to prevent the jury from learning about his other claims and injuries in six previous car accidents, as well as the one that occurred after the accident at issue in the case. The trial court, however, allowed the defendant to introduce evidence of the accidents that had caused injuries to the same parts of the plaintiff’s body as the crash at issue. The jury ultimately awarded the plaintiff over $28,000, but it only covered a fraction of his medical expenses. As such, the plaintiff sought review from the appeals court, seeking the full amount of his damages.
In Maryland, a court may admit relevant evidence, but cannot admit any evidence that is irrelevant. Nevertheless, the court has considerable discretion to exclude relevant evidence if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. On appeal, the plaintiff asserted that the other accidents were irrelevant, and that even if they were relevant, their value at trial was substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice to him.
In reviewing the evidence, the appeals court noted that the defendant sought to establish that the plaintiff was attempting to recover damages for injuries other than the ones he had suffered in the accident at issue. In particular, the injuries from the other accidents supported the testimony of the defendant’s expert witness, who had opined that they were not attributable to the low-speed, rear-end accident at issue in the case.
In these circumstances, the court found that the evidence of trauma caused by other car accidents was relevant to explain the defendant’s theory that the other accidents were the source of the plaintiff’s pain. The appeals court went on to find that the lower court had not erred by allowing the relevant evidence, as it had significant discretion to do so and there was support for its ruling. Accordingly, the amount of damages awarded to the plaintiff by the jury was affirmed.
At Foran & Foran, P.A., our Maryland injury lawyers can represent victims of car and truck accidents against insurance companies as well as the negligent drivers that caused their injuries. If you are seeking guidance about a personal injury or medical malpractice case, we are ready to listen. Call (301) 441-2022 or contact us online to request a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys today.
The Maryland Health Care Malpractice Claims Statute may apply to claims alleging negligent dental care as well as medical care. In a February 8, 2019 Maryland medical malpractice action, the plaintiff sued her oral surgeon for dental malpractice and lack of consent. The case went to trial before a jury. At the close of the plaintiff’s case, the court granted the defendant’s motion for judgment, which prevented the issues from going to the jury. The plaintiff ultimately succeeded on appeal in having the judgment reversed on her malpractice claim.
The defendant in the case removed the plaintiff’s wisdom teeth. After the surgery, the plaintiff noticed that she could no longer taste food on the left side of her tongue and had lost sensation in that area. She was evaluated by a neurologist, who diagnosed her with a serious injury to her left lingual nerve. The plaintiff subsequently filed a lawsuit against the defendant.
At trial, the plaintiff’s expert witness testified that nerve damage such as hers may be caused by sectioning the tooth, a procedure that requires cutting a small bone between the roots of the tooth. He explained that if the surgeon cuts too deep, he may hit a lingual nerve. The plaintiff’s dental records, however, did not state whether or not the defendant sectioned her tooth. The defendant then testified that he may or may not have sectioned the tooth. The trial court later granted a judgment for the defendant on the malpractice claim, reasoning that the plaintiff’s expert did not specifically provide an opinion as to how the nerve was injured.
To establish a claim for medical or dental negligence in Maryland, a plaintiff must prove (1) the applicable standard of care; (2) that this standard has been violated; and (3) that this violation caused the complained of harm. Due to the complexity of these cases, expert testimony is normally required to establish breach of the standard of care and causation.
In reviewing the testimony of the plaintiff’s expert, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland found it to mean that, although there are other ways for a nerve injury to occur during surgery, he thinks it happened by sectioning. The court found his testimony sufficient to meet the basic elements of the claim, and allow the question to proceed to the jury. The judgment on the malpractice claim was therefore reversed, and the matter was remanded back to the lower court for further proceedings.
At Foran & Foran, P.A., our Maryland medical malpractice lawyers have the knowledge and skill to advise you in a health care lawsuit. We handle personal injury cases arising out of premises liability accidents, auto collisions, and unacceptable medical treatment. Discuss your injury with one of our compassionate attorneys in a free legal consultation, which you can schedule by calling (301) 441-2022 or contacting Foran and Foran online.