Justia Maryland Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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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

Posted in: Personal Injury
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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

Posted in: Personal Injury
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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

Posted in: Personal Injury
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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

Posted in: Personal Injury
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In this case alleging injuries and damages caused by lead paint exposure at a residential property the Court of Appeals clarified the issue of when epidemiological studies relied upon by an expert provide a sufficient factual basis for the expert’s testimony. Respondent sued Appellants alleging that lead exposure at a residence owned by Appellants caused him injury and that he sustained damages as a result. The jury returned a verdict for Respondent. On appeal, Appellants argued that Dr. Jacalyn Blackwell-White, who was accepted as an expert in the fields of pediatrics and childhood lead poisoning, did not have a sufficient factual basis for her opinions regarding causation. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) Dr. Blackwell-White’s causation opinion had a sufficient factual basis to establish a causal relationship between lead exposure and cognitive defects identified in Respondent and his IQ loss; and (2) there was sufficient evidence for the trial court to submit the case to the jury on the issue of whether Respondent’s lead exposure resulted in damages. View "Sugarman v. Liles" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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At issue was whether the possession and control exception to Maryland’s statute of repose, codified at Md. Code Cts. & Jud. Proc. (CJP) 5-108, which bars certain claims relating to injuries caused by improvements to real property, opens defendants to liability in cases that do not involve asbestos. CJP 5-108(d)(2)(i) provides that the protections of the statute of repose shall not apply if the “defendant was in actual possession and control of the property as owner, tenant, or otherwise when the injury occurred….” The subsections (d)(2)(ii)-(iv) eliminate the statute’s protection for certain defendants where a claimed injury was caused by exposure to asbestos. Here, Plaintiffs filed a wrongful death action against Defendants, the owner and property manager of a shopping center, alleging that the defendants failed to warn the decedent, an HVAC repairman, that the wall he climbed and fell from had no roof access. Defendants moved for summary judgment arguing that Plaintiffs’ claims were barred by the statute of repose and that the possession and control exception applied only to asbestos cases. The circuit court greed and granted summary judgment for Defendants. The Court of Special Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the possession and control exception to the statute of repose applies in non-asbestos cases. View "SVF Riva Annapolis LLC v. Gilroy" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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In this workers’ compensation case, the Court of Appeals clarified an exception to the "going and coming rule" - the special mission or errand doctrine. Employee, who was employed by Montgomery County, was injured in a car accident while driving from her home to a mandatory work training on a Saturday, which was normally her day off. The Workers’ Compensation Commission awarded compensation, finding that Employee’s injury arose out of and in the course of employment. The County sought judicial review, arguing that the going and coming rule prohibited recovery because accidental injuries sustained while going to or coming from work do not ordinarily arise out of and in the course of employment, and none of the exceptions to the rule applied. The circuit court granted summary judgment for the County. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the going and coming rule, rather than the traveling employee doctrine, controlled Plaintiff’s case; but (2) the undisputed facts permitted a reasonable conclusion that the special mission exception to the going and coming rule applied in this case. View "Calvo v. Montgomery County, Maryland" on Justia Law