Articles Posted in Maryland

The Maryland Court of Appeals decided Pittway v. Collins last month, a tragic case involving a lawsuit that arose out of a fire that took two lives in Montgomery County in 1998. A burning candle caused the fire in the basement, where the children – guests of the tenants of the house – were sleeping. The children lit the candle during an electrical outage caused by thunderstorms and the HVAC powered smoke detector that had no backup was not operational. Making the problem worse, the basement was a windowless basement bedroom that did not have proper egress.

Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against a chain of defendants for failing to supply an adequate fire alarm: the builder, the landlord, the electrical subcontractor, the city rental inspector, and the home improvement company that renovated the basement four years earlier.

After settlements and summary judgment, everyone got out of the case except for the builder and the manufacturer. Both filed motions for summary judgment, before the discovery deadline, that intervening negligent acts superseded the claims against them. The trial court granted the motions. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals reversed.

Virginia Lawyers Weekly reports on an insane case in Virginia where an emergency room doctor in Hampton received a defense verdict.

After a night of partying, the decedent and his friend got into a dispute over whether the decedent would drive drunk from Hampton back home to Atlanta with his 4-year-old son. The best friend did what best friends usually do – he stabbed him in the thigh.

The decedent was taken to the emergency room. Plaintiff’s malpractice lawsuit claimed that the emergency room doctor should have sought out detailed information about the length of the knife. The defendant was told only that the decedent was stabbed with a knife and that the length of the blade was unknown. The defendant assumed it was a small blade.

The Baltimore Injury Lawyer Blog has a post on a Maryland Daily Record article looking at how President-Elect Barack Obama might change the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals which includes Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

I’ve spent far more time thinking about how President Obama will change the country than his impact on lawyers or even my own clients. But President Obama will nominate judges that I will stand before and argue. While I think President Bush has nominated a lot of good judges, this fact makes me a little happier to be a lawyer today. I’m not saying every plaintiffs’ lawyer will have a better shot at success in front of judges nominated by Obama. I just think they are likely to be fair and reasonable judges.

Mr. Miller:

Hi, I am a Maryland attorney and would like to get little mentoring on any differences between an unidentified motorist claim and an uninsured motorist claim. Please call or send me an email and I promise I’ll be brief. Thanks so much for any help!

Dear Maryland Attorney:

Bob Zarbin and Jim MacAlister write a telling article in this month’s journal of the Maryland Trial Lawyers Association about Maryland’s new bad faith law. The authors note that the avalanche of bad faith claims the insurance companies said were coming down the pike with Maryland’s new bad faith law was actually only 12 in the first quarter of the 2008 and only 12 all last year.

Similarly, on the medical malpractice front, Maryland malpractice insurers claimed the sky was falling one minute and the next they are declaring $74 million profit to their doctor shareholders and lowering malpractice insurance rates. The legislative process requires that the viewpoints of all stakeholders. But can we at least make sure we put the proper discounted value on “the sky is falling” on the next go around? I’m hoping the next go around includes a revised bad faith law with more teeth than mere costs and expenses.

In the same issue, Kevin Goldberg, who is with Goldberg, Finnegan & Mester in Silver Spring, Maryland, writes a great article laying out a great checklist of avenues to explore when you have a catastrophic accident and what appears to be limited coverage.

In Brockington v. Grimstead, 176 Md. App. 327 (2007), the Maryland Court of Special Appeals considers a bizarre set of facts involving juror deliberations. The underlying action is a Maryland medical malpractice case in Baltimore tried before now retired Judge Thomas E. Noel for failure to diagnose cancer. The jury awarded $4,414,195, including $ 3,000,000 for non-economic damages, or $1,959,195 once the award was reduced consistent with the cap on non-economic damages.

The issue on appeal involved the judge’s decision to include alternates in the jury room. Judge Noel, over strenuous objection from the plaintiff’s  lawyer,seated for deliberations six regular jurors and two alternates who were instructed to remain silent during deliberations. Later, when two ostensibly pro-defendant jurors backed off the jury, the defendant’s malpractice lawyer flip flopped and withdrew his consent to the substitution, an objection he apparently repeated about 5 million times over the course of the deliberations.

The issue was whether the Defendant waived his right to complain when he agreed to let the alternate jurors sit in on the deliberations. The Plaintiff argued that the substitution of an alternate juror for a regular juror is forbidden once the regular jurors have retired to deliberate. In other words, the malpractice defendant cannot un-ring the bell by withdrawing his consent when the logical conclusion of his agreement did not go his way. Plaintiff’s attorney further contended that because there was consent to the alternate process, the trial court’s rulings should be evaluated for abuse of discretion, not the obvious legal error.

If you are selling medical malpractice insurance in Maryland, Maryland Insurance Code § 19-114 (2008) requires that you offer at a minimum, medical malpractice policies with deductibles of $25,000, $50,000, and $100,000.

We have a medical malpractice lawsuit pending against a doctor in Maryland who recently was found liable at trial in another case. The doctor has a high malpractice deductible, and it was reported that no offer was made in the case.

I think our case is a great deal stronger than the one this doctor just lost, both on liability and on damages because, unlike his last case, we can put on the board damages that exceed the doctor’s policy limits of $1,000,000. That has to be a strong incentive for the doctor to encourage settlement because he has personal exposure to an excess verdict. Still, I would not be surprised if we end up trying the case because the doctor does not approve a settlement because he does not want to pay the deductible again.

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