Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Maryland Court of Appeals
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In this case brought against an insurer in Plaintiff's attempt to collect on a judgment in his favor in a strict liability and negligent failure to warn action, the Court of Appeals held that damages from a continuous bodily injury judgment must be allocated on a pro rata, time-on-the-risk basis across all insured and insurable periods triggered by Plaintiff's injuries. Almost forty years after exposure to asbestos at his place of work, Plaintiff was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Plaintiff won a nearly $2.7 million judgment against the asbestos installer. Plaintiff then initiated garnishment proceedings against Defendant as insurer of the asbestos installer. At issue before the circuit court was how to allocate loss among various trigger insurance policies because the installer was only insured by Defendant from 1974 to 1977 through four comprehensive general liability policies. The circuit court concluded that Plaintiff's damages must be allocated on a pro rata, time-on-the risk basis across all insured and insurable periods triggered by Plaintiff's injuries. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court properly applied the pro rata allocation approach rather than a joint-and-several approach that would have required the insurer to cover the entire judgment. View "Rossello v. Zurich American Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals reversing the circuit court's decision determining that it had personal jurisdiction over Defendant and entering a judgment in favor of Plaintiff, holding that the factors weighed against the constitutional reasonableness of causing Defendant to defend this suit in Maryland. This case was filed by Defendant's stepson, who was a North Carolina resident, against Defendant, who was also a North Carolina resident. Plaintiff ultimately obtained a default judgment against Defendant in the amount of $99,856.84. The court of special appeals reversed the circuit court's decision with respect to the finding of personal jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Defendant's act of filing a sole lawsuit through counsel did not rise to the level of a "persistent course of conduct" to justify the assertion of personal jurisdiction over her in this matter. View "Pinner v. Pinner" on Justia Law

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In this appeal concerning whether a school board was liable for a judgment against its employee when the board was dismissed from the case prior to trial the Court of Appeals held that, under Md. Cts. & Jud. Proc. 5-518, even if a board is entitled to substantive dismissal from a case the plaintiffs are required to maintain the board as a party or request that the board be brought back into the case to indemnify an employee. As a matter of trial strategy in a case against the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners, counsel for Plaintiffs decided to not appeal the dismissal, via summary judgment, of the Board from the case and to avoid joinder of the Board under after the conclusion of the trial. After the trial, Plaintiffs filed motions to enforce the judgments, arguing that the Board was obligated to satisfy the judgments pursuant to section 5-518. The circuit court granted Plaintiffs' motions. The court of special appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, in order to force a county school board to indemnify a judgment against a county board employee, the mandatory joinder requirement under section 5-518 requires that a county board be joined as a party throughout the entire litigation. View "Neal v. Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners" on Justia Law

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In this defamation action, the Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the court of special appeals reversing the trial court's judgment granting judgment at the end of Plaintiff's case in favor of Defendants, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that a plaintiff in a defamation action, who is also the defendant in a related criminal case, is not entitled to a stay of the civil lawsuit she initiated pending resolution of the criminal case. Plaintiff filed a defamation complaint against Defendants alleging defamation, alleging that Defendants made false statement to the police that Plaintiff stole money from them and committed identity fraud. Plaintiff was later indicted for the same events underlying the defamation action. Plaintiff moved to stay the civil action, asserting that Plaintiff's testimony in the civil action would implicate her constitutional right against self-incrimination in her criminal case. The circuit court denied the motion and later granted judgment for Defendants on all counts. The court of special appeals vacated the judgment, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion in denying Plaintiff's motion to stay the proceedings. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the circuit court's decision to deny the stay was not an abuse of discretion. View "Moser v. Heffington" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the court of special appeals reversing the trial court's grant of Petitioners' motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) on the basis that Petitioners were grossly negligent and their gross negligence caused the ultimate demise of Kerry Butler, Jr., holding that Petitioners were not grossly negligent in their treatment of Butler and were therefore afforded immunity under the Fire and Rescue Company Act, Md. Cts. & Jud. Proc. 5-604(a). The Estate of Kerry Butler and several of Butler's family members (collectively, Respondents) filed this wrongful death and survival action against Petitioners, two Baltimore City Fire Department medics. A jury found that Petitioners were grossly negligent. The trial court granted Petitioners' motion for JNOV, concluding that the evidence of gross negligence was insufficient. The court of special appeals reversed, concluding that Respondents were grossly negligent and not entitled to immunity under the Act. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the jury could not have found that Petitioners were grossly negligent by a preponderance of the evidence; and (2) section 5-604(a) unambiguously confers immunity upon municipal fire departments in simple negligence claims. View "Stracke v. Estate of Butler" on Justia Law

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In this asbestos mesothelioma civil litigation the court of appeals affirmed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court finding that William Edward Busch contracted mesothelioma as a result of his exposure to asbestos-containing materials installed by insulation contractor Wallace & Gale, Co., the predecessor to Defendant, Wallace & Gale Asbestos Settlement Trust (WGAST), during the construction of a high school, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held (1) it was sufficient to rely on circumstantial evidence to infer that WGAST, whose presence was substantial in the general insulation of plumbing, heating, and ventilation surfaces during construction in the high school building, was responsible for the asbestos exposure and resulting illness of Busch, who worked only in a specific room of the building and where there was no direct evidence linking WGAST to the asbestos insulation installed in that room; and (2) it was permissible to inform the jury that a co-defendant to the asbestos lawsuit had been dismissed when a remaining defendant opened the door by introducing evidence relating to the earlier presence of the dismissed party. View "Wallace & Gale Asbestos Settlement Trust v. Busch" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Special Appeals reversing the decision of the circuit court affirming the decision of the Workers' Compensation Commission modifying an order that provided Officer Peter Gang, who was injured working as a correctional officer for Montgomery County, a compensation award for a permanent partial disability resulting from his injury, holding that the Commission was authorized to retroactively modify the compensation award. Specifically, the Commission retroactively adjusted the rate of compensation because, as a public safety employee, Officer Gang had been entitled to a higher rate of compensation than that which he initially received. The Court of Appeals concluded that the Commission was not statutorily authorized to retroactively modify Officer Gang's rate of compensation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under section 9-736(b) of the Workers' Compensation Act, the Commission may modify the compensation award within five years from the date of the last compensation payment; and (2) because Officer Gang applied for the correction before the statutory five-year period expired the Commission properly exercised its continuing jurisdiction to retroactively correct the rate of compensation in Officer Gang's award for permanent partial disability based on an error of law. View "Gang v. Montgomery County" on Justia Law

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In this lead-based paint case the Court of Appeals held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting expert testimony from two of Plaintiff's experts - a vocational rehabilitation expert and an economic expert. The vocational expert provided testimony that, with the cognitive deficits caused by Plaintiff's exposure to lead, Plaintiff would have the earning capacity of someone with less than a twelfth-grade education. Relying on the vocation rehabilitation expert's conclusions, the economic expert opined that Plaintiff's loss of earning capacity over his lifetime was $1,073.042. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was a sufficient factual basis to support the vocational rehabilitation expert's opinion as to Plaintiff's vocation and education attainment absent impairment; and (2) Lewin Realty III, Inc. v. Brooks, 771 A.2d 446 (Md. 2001), and Sugarman v. Liles, 190 A.3d 344 (Md. 2018), do not require an expert in a lead-based paint case to utilize statistical data or studies to support an opinion as to a plaintiff's vocational and education attainment absent deficits; and (3) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying a motion in limine to exclude the economic expert's testimony and report as untimely. View "Dackman v. Robinson" on Justia Law

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In this medical malpractice action, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming the trial court's judgment granting summary judgment in favor of Respondent, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, Petitioner's action against Respondent was barred by the one satisfaction rule because Petitioner received full compensation for her injuries. Petitioner, who was injured in an automobile accident, filed suit and obtained a settlement from the negligent driver and the owner of the other vehicle, as well as from her uninsured/underinsured motorists carrier. In this case, Petitioner sought to recover for her injuries from Respondent, a hospital. The Supreme Court denied relief, holding that because Petitioner obtained a settlement in her previous litigation from her insurer for the same injuries that she now sought from Respondent, Petitioner's claim against Respondent was barred by the one satisfaction rule. View "Gallagher v. Mercy Medical Center, Inc." on Justia Law

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At issue was whether a duty of care extended from a medical research institute to a child who was allegedly injured by exposure to lead when the research institute conducted a research study seeking to investigate the effectiveness of lead-based paint abatement measures with a participant that lived with the child and in a property where the child lived. The circuit court concluded that the medical research institute did not owe a legal duty to the child because she was not a participant of the study. The Court of Special Appeals disagreed, holding that the institute owed the child a duty of care under the common law. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, the research institute owed the child a duty of care under the common law. The Court’s holding was based on the balance of factors set forth in Kiriakos v. Phillips, 139 A.3d 1006 (Md. 2016) for determining the existence of a duty under the common law. View "Kennedy Krieger Institute, Inc. v. Partlow" on Justia Law