Articles Posted in Negligence

danger.jpgThe Maryland Court of Appeals, earlier this week, overturned the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County, finding that the Judge erred by failing to instruct the jury on the issue of Assumption of Risk in a personal injury trial.

Our Annapolis Maryland Injury Attorneys have years of experience representing those who have been injured by the negligence of others.

In S&S Oil v. Jackson, the Plaintiff sought personal injury damages as a result of injuries she claimed she sustained while stepping on an uneven flooring surface in a gasoline service station undergoing renovation. The service station’s defense was based in part of the allegation that the Plaintiff was contributorily negligent and that the Plaintiff assumed the risk of injuries.

At trial, the station owner testified that there was orange or red caution tape across part of the construction area and a “Watch Your Step” sign somewhere in the immediate vicinity. The Plaintiff testified that she did not see either the caution tape or the warning sign and that she assumed the floor surface was level.

Traditionally, at the close of evidence, the jury is read jury instruction, including an instruction on the issue of Assumption of Risk, if the trial testimony has generated the issue. The most recent jury instruction for Assumption of Risk, as published in the Maryland Civil Pattern Jury Instructions, Fourth Edition, reads as follows:

A Plaintiff cannot recover if the plaintiff has assumed the risk of injury. A person assumes the risk of an injury if that person knows and understands the risk of an existing danger or reasonably should have known and understood the risk of an existing danger, and voluntarily chooses to encounter the risk.

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The Maryland Court of Appeals heard arguments yesterday in the case of Coleman v. Soccer Association of Columbia, et al. In the Coleman case, a Howard County jury found a Soccer Association negligent in its maintenance of a soccer goal which collapsed, resulting in the in an injury to the Plaintiff. Under Maryland’s Contributory Negligence law, however, the Plaintiff did not recover any damages after the jury found that the Plaintiff was also negligent, and Plaintiff’s negligence contributed to his injury.

Our Annapolis Maryland injury attorneys have years of significant experience representing accident victims and rebutting allegations of contributory negligence argued by Defense attorneys.

Under the Doctrine of Contributory Negligence, a Plaintiff who in any way is determined to be negligent – even if determined to be only one percent negligent – is precluded from recovering any damages from a negligent Defendant. The rationale is that the Plaintiff has contributed to his/her injuries.

Under a Comparative Negligence system, as advocated by the Plaintiff’s attorney in the Coleman case, the jury would be asked to assess the relative fault of the Plaintiff or Defendant. If, for example, the jury found the Defendant was 80% negligent and the Plaintiff was 20% negligent, Plaintiff’s damages would be reduced by 20%.

The Coleman case represents an effort on the part of a Plaintiff’s attorney to ask the Court to overturn the Doctrine of Contributory negligence, which was first adopted by the Maryland Court of Appeals in 1847 in the case of Irwin v. Sprigg. Maryland is one of only 5 states that still abides by a contributory negligence standard (the other four are Alabama, Virginia, North Carolina and the District of Columbia).

Although several bills have been introduced in the Maryland General Assembly to create a comparative negligence system, these bills have failed on multiple occasions, amid heavy lobbying from various plaintiff and defendant-friendly lobbying groups.

The main arguments advanced by the Plaintiff is that the doctrine of contributory negligence is not a just system in that injured Plaintiffs are denied relief even in cases where the Defendant is determined to be negligent. Defendants argue that the legislature, rather than the Court of Appeals, should establish the law. Additionally, other defense organizations argued that overturning the contributory negligence doctrine, would “[throw] a rock in the pond of Maryland court system and would spur years of chaos and litigation.”

The Court did not indicate when it would issue its decision, but typically takes several months to issue its decision. In the mean time, legislators may introduce another effort to legislate comparative negligence in Maryland.
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The Court of Special Appeals ruled this week that an exculpatory agreement created by a “commercial enterprise” executed by adults on behalf of a minor child are void and unenforceable as a matter of public policy.

Our Annapolis Maryland injury attorneys have years of experience representing those who have suffered catastrophic personal injuries caused by the negligence of others.

In Rosen v. BJ’s Wholesale Club, No. 2861 September Term, 2009, the Court of Special Appeals overturned a Baltimore Circuit Court’s finding that a pre-injury release agreement signed by a parent on behalf of her five-year old child fully released BJ’s for all liability as a result of injuries suffered by the five-year old on a supervised play center at BJ’s Warehouse.

When the family joined BJ’s in July 2005, the father executed a release agreement involving the use of an indoor playground at BJ’s called the “Incredible Kid’s Club.” The Club was a supervised drop-off point where members dropped off their children, while the adults shopped. Members’ children were not permitted to use the play center unless the family signed a release containing exculpatory and indemnification clauses. The agreement read as follows:
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A Dallas woman sued the Dallas Cowboys earlier this month after she allegedly suffered third-degree burns on her buttocks after sitting on a black marble bench outside Cowboys Stadium prior to an August 2010 scrimmage.

Our Annapolis Maryland injury attorneys have years of experience representing Plaintiffs who have been injured as a result of negligence involving an individual or business’ duty to warn of a known danger.

The Complaint, which was filed in Tarrant County, Texas, alleges that that the Cowboys and team owner Jerry Jones were negligent in failing to warn Plaintiff Jennelle Carrilo of the danger of sitting on the bench that was exposed to the exceptionally hot August sun either by posting a sign or roping off the bench to prevent individuals from sitting.

The injury occurred on August 10, 2010, which had a high temperature of 101 degrees in Dallas. Plaintiff alleged that she did not realize the burns until she stood up to use the restroom.

Upon realizing she was injured, the Plaintiff left the stadium to go to Huguley Memorial Medical Center, where she was initially diagnosed with first-degree burns. Several days later, however, she began to feel dizzy and experience significant pain. She returned to the hospital where she was diagnosed with third-degree burns. She has since required skin graphs.

The Plaintiff has demanded a jury trial.
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medical helicopter.jpgThe Maryland Court of Special Appeals overturned a Talbot County Circuit Court Judge’s ruling that a mother could not sue a commercial ambulance company for negligence, last Thursday, holding that the trial judge erred in his interpretation of the Maryland Good Samaritan Statute.

Our Annapolis Maryland medical malpractice attorneys have more than 30 years of experience representing the rights of Plaintiffs who have suffered damages due to the negligence of others.

In Murray v. Transcare Maryland, TransCare argued that as a commercial ambulance company it was entitled to immunity based on the Maryland Good Samaritan State and the Maryland Fire and Rescue Act. The Court of Special Appeals panel held that although Maryland State law protects municipal firefighter and rescue operators from liability, both the Maryland Fire and Rescue Act and the Maryland Good Samaritan Statute, do not protect commercial ambulance services, such as the services provided by TransCare, from liability. The Court’s decision allows the Plaintiff to pursue a claim against TransCare.

The events at issue occurred on November 15, 2007, when an air transport company was required to transport a child from Memorial Hospital at Easton to University of Maryland Medical System’s (UMMS) Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, because the Easton hospital was not equipped to manage an intubated child. TransCare employed a paramedic on board the transport helicopter who failed to find an oxygen mask after the airway of the child, Bryson Murray, became blocked by a breathing tube.

Unable to find an oxygen mask on board, the air transport required an emergency landing before a mask could be found, and by that time the child had suffered permanent brain damage.
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The Maryland Court of Appeals last Friday upheld a Baltimore County trial court’s denial of a physician’s motion for a new trial, after a jury awarded $13 million to a family whose child was born with severe cerebral palsy. The jury found that the physician breached his duty to obtain the mother’s informed consent to treatment when he treated her for a partial placental abruption, by failing to inform her of the risks and available alternative treatments related to changes in her pregnancy.

Our Annapolis Maryland medical malpractice attorneys have more than 30 years experiments representing plaintiffs in cases involving catastrophic birth injuries.

The case Spangler v. McQuitty et al, marked the second time the Court of Appeals examined the same set of facts. In 2009, the Court of Appeals held in McQuitty I that a patient may bring an informed consent claim in the absence of a battery or affirmative violation of the patient’s physicial integrity because a practitioner’s duty to inform a patient of material information that the practitioner knows or ought to know would be significant to a reasonable person in the patient’s position in deciding whether or not to submit to a particular medical treatment or procedure.

After overturning the trial court’s initial grant of judgment notwithstanding the verdict, the Court of Appeals remanded the case to the Baltimore County Circuit Court to address Dr. Spangler’s motion for remittur, which is a motion to reduce damages.

On remand, the trial court rejected Dr. Spangler’s request for remittur and post-trial relief. Dr. Spangler appealed, and the Court of Appeals granted a writ of certiorari to hear the case.

Prior to the trial court’s decision on Dr. Spangler’s motion for remittur, the child unfortunately died.

In last week’s decision, the Court of Appeals for the first time addressed the effect of a party’s death on a jury verdict for future medical expenses. The jury awarded the child’s parents $8,442,515 in future medical expenses, which Dr. Spangler argued the parents stopped incurring after their child died.

The Court ultimately held that while some states like Wisconsin have statutes to address such situations, Maryland does not. Although Maryland does have a statute permitting future economic damages to be annuitized, the trial court exercised its discretion not to grant an annuity award, which was not challenged on appeal.

In the absence of such statute addressing cessation of future medical damages, the Court joined several others states in deciding that “finality is the valued norm.” In other words, the Court granted deference to the jury’s verdict, which was likely based on a projections based on Plaintiff’s life expectancy.

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A Utah family who lost two children from a pesticide that was misapplied by an exterminator outside their home settled a lawsuit against the company that employed the exterminator for an undisclosed amount last month.

Our Annapolis Maryland Injury Attorneys have more than 30 years representing Plaintiffs who have been injured by the negligence of others, including home contractors.

The family’s lawsuit alleged that an exterminator for Bugman Pest and Lawn, Inc., placed Fumitoxin pellets within a burrow system that was less than 15 feet from the family’s home. Fumitoxin is a rat poison. As result of this pesticide application, which was contrary to the manufacturer’s specifications, five of six members of the family became sick, and the family tragically lost their 4-year-old and 15-month-old daughters.

The Utah Medical Examiner’s office found elevated phosphine levels in the bodies of the two children. State authorities attributed the elevated phosphine levels to inhalation of fumes from the rat poison.

The family’s lawsuit sought damages to compensate the family for negligence, infliction of emotional distress, nuisance and “abnormally dangerous activities” that were allegedly committed by the company and its employee.

The employee who administered the pesticide pleaded guilty in United States District Court in October, admitting that he applied Fumitoxin pellets within 15 feet of the family home in violation of Federal Environmental Protection Laws. He acknowledged that the application was inconsistent with the product’s labeling and exceeded the required dosage. Prosecutors recommended a jail sentence of six months, followed by six months of home confinement.

The company owner, Raymond Wilson Sr., pleaded guilty and will be banned from purchasing pesticides for three years, which will likely put the company out of business.

As a result of the deaths of the two children, the Environmental Protection Agency prohibited residential use of Fumitoxin. The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food also tightened accountability requirements, mandating that consumers be notified in advance if any product with a “Danger” label is used at their home.

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A Connecticut man who suffered a tramautic brain injury was awarded a $10 million verdict against Segway scooter company last week for the company’s failure to provide a helmet during a 2009 demonstration at Southern Connecticut State University.

Our Baltimore Maryland injury attorneys and Annapolis Maryland injury attorneys have more than 30 years of experience representing victims of traumatic head injuries as a result of another party’s negligence.

The Plaintiff, John Ezzo, was a student at Southern Connecticut where on September 16, 2009, Segway ran a program called “the Segway Challenge,” an event to benefit the Special Olympics. The program, which was held in the school’s ballroom, involved an obstacle course designed by Segway employees.

The Segway employees, however, did not bring helmets and Ezzo, at the suggestion of Special Olympic volunteers, rode the Segway through the obstacle course blindfolded. While riding blindfolded, Ezzo fell backwards and hit his head on the floor resulting in a traumatic brain injury.

As a result of the brain injury, Plaintiff’s counsel argued that Ezzo dropped out of college. He became a handyman, unable to pursue his dream of becoming a police officer.

The jury forewoman cited the manufacturer’s failure to follow its own safety requirements, which specified that its employees wear helmets while operating the equipment.
The $10 million that the jury awarded the Plaintiff was for non-economic damages as well as his permanent impairment.

Ironically, the owner of Segway, Inc., the manufacturer of the Segway HT also died after falling off of a cliff while operating a Segway. Jimi Heselden died in September 2010 after falling 80 feet.

Insurance companies, such as Progressive, have begun to offer Segway-specific insurance policies to cover accidents related to Segways.

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snowy path.jpgTwo recent plaintiff-friendly Maryland Court of Appeals decisions have refined the “assumption of risk” defense that is often raised in personal injury and accident cases.

Our Annapolis Maryland Accident Attoneys have years of experience representing plaintiffs in personal injury cases as a result of accidents, including slip and fall cases.

Both cases, Poole v. Coakley, and Thomas v. Panco Management, concern submission of personal injury cases to the jury in light of the defense of assumption of risk. In both cases, the trial judge did not submit the issue of negligence to the jury. The Maryland Court of Appeals held that both trial judges erred in their rulings.

The Maryland Civil Pattern Jury Instructions currently defines assumption of the risk as follows: “A Plaintiff cannot recover if the plaintiff has assumed the risk of injury. A person assumes the risk of an injury if that person knows and understands the risk of an existing danger or reasonably should have known and understood the risk of an existing danger, and voluntarily chooses to encounter the risk.”

After these two decisions, the Civil Pattern Jury Instruction will likely be modified to indicate that a person assumes the Risk only if he actually knew of an existing danger, not just that he “would, should, or could” have known of an existing danger.

The Poole case concerned the liability of a construction company for the injuries of a plaintiff who slipped on “black ice” while walking through a stream of water through an otherwise icy parking lot. The nature of the “black ice” was such that the plaintiff did not actually know that the danger was present, and therefore the Court of Appeals held it was error to grant the defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment on the issue of assumption of risk.

The Thomas case concerned the liability of an apartment management company for a tenant’s injuries after she slipped on “Black Ice.” Her testimony was that the “black ice” was positioned near the only entry and exit for her building. The trial judge granted Defendant’s Motion for Judgment, holding that the Plaintiff assumed the risk of her injuries. The Court of Appeals reversed holding that Plaintiff’s knowledge of the risk of slipping on black ice, and the voluntariness of her conduct were questions of fact to be resolved by the jury, rather than the trial judge.

Both cases will likely be retried, where a jury will determine whether the defendants were negligent.

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gavel2.jpgA Portland, Oregon couple, filed a lawsuit seeking $23 million in damages over the practitioners’ late diagnosis of their second son’s Duchenne muscular dystrophy. As a result of the late diagnosis, the parents allege they were denied the opportunity to exercise “reproductive choices,” prior to their third son being born with the same condition.

Our Annapolis and Baltimore Medical Malpractice Attorneys have years of experience representing Plaintiffs whose children have been affected by catastrophic birth injuries. These injuries have a lasting emotional and financial impact on parents, as they must often pay for a lifetime of medical care and see their children subjected to pain and suffering.

The Oregon lawsuit alleges that due to the negligence of the defendants, the parents will watch both boys lose the ability to walk by their early teens and will ultimately die from the progressive condition.

The first son was born in 2003. The lawsuit alleges that the first son immediately showed developmental abnormalities after birth. Although the parents sought medical help, the son was not diagnosed with the condition until October 2010, which was two years after their third son was born. Their third son is also affected by the disease.

The suit alleges that the defendants failed to recognize the second son’s abnormalities and failed to diagnose him, and moreover failed to advise them of the likelihood of a subsequent child having the same condition.

Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy is a condition that affects one in 3,000 boys, which includes delays in walking, trouble going up stairs, frequent falls and large calf muscles. There is no known cure.

Cases like this are often difficult and sensitive, because such cases could send a negative message to children when they learn that their parents may wish that they were not born. Additionally, these cases might suggest that a child that is handicapped is less desirable than a non-handicapped child. These critiques overlook the emotional and painful impact these issues have on families.
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