Justia Maryland Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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The Court of Appeals answered certified questions asking whether Maryland recognizes an independent cause of action for breach of fiduciary duty, holding that this Court recognizes an independent cause of action for breach of fiduciary duty and outlining its scope and parameters.The Court of Special appeals filed a certification pursuant to Maryland Rule 8-304 requesting that the Court of Appeals provide guidance concerning whether an independent cause of action exists for breach of fiduciary duty. The Court of Appeals answered (1) Maryland does recognize such a cause of action, and to establish a breach of fiduciary duty a plaintiff must demonstrate the existence of a fiduciary relationship, breach of the duty owed by the fiduciary to the beneficiary, and harm to the beneficiary; and (2) a court should consider the nature of the fiduciary relationship and possible remedies afforded for a breach on a case by case basis, and the remedy will depend upon the specific law applicable to the specific fiduciary relationship at issue. View "Plank v. Cherneski" on Justia Law

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In this case, the Court of Appeals chose to adopt Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), as the governing standard by which trial courts admit or exclude expert testimony, thus replacing Maryland's "Frye-Reed Plus" standard.The Frye-Reed standard, born of Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 (D.C. Cir. 1923), and Reed v. State, 283 Md. 374 (1978), started in Maryland and continued to be the standard for determining the reliability of expert testimony after the United States Supreme Court decided Daubert. The Frye-Reed standard eventually morphed into the Frye-Reed Plus standard, which adopted several Daubert principles. For that reason, Appellant argued that this Court should adopt the Daubert standard and apply it to this case. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed this matter for pretrial proceedings and a new trial consistent with this opinion, holding (1) this Court adopts the Daubert standard in Maryland because those factors are persuasive in interpreting Maryland Rule 5-702; and (2) this case is remanded for the circuit court to apply this new evidentiary standard. View "Rochkind v. Stevenson" 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 reversing the judgment of the trial court holding that Defendants had not breached the standard of care, holding that the trial court erred in allowing Defendants to raise and argue the issue of non-party negligence and to submit the issue to the jury.Defendant-physicians in this case denied liability but asserted, as an alternative causation theory, that the negligence of a non-party physician was a cause of Plaintiff's injuries. At issue was whether a jury may consider whether a non-party physician was negligence and caused injury to Plaintiff without the expert testimony necessary to establish medical negligence when medical negligence is raised as a defense. The Supreme Court held (1) expert testimony is required to establish medical negligence and causation when such matters are outside the common knowledge of jurors; (2) to the extent a defendant elects to raise non-party medical negligence as part of its defense, the defendant has the burden to produce admissible evidence to allow a jury to make a finding on that issue; and (3) the trial court erred in allowing Defendant to raise and argue the issue of non-party negligence under these circumstances. View "American Radiology Services, LLC v. Reiss" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals recognized the tort of intentional interference with a prospective gift or inheritance and adopted the standards set forth in Section 19 of the Third Restatement of Torts.Petitioner, the residuary beneficiary of the Estate of Peter A. Castruccio, alleged that Respondent, Peter's widow, maliciously depleted her inheritance by forcing the Estate's expenditure of attorneys' fees to defend against Respondent's groundless lawsuits and efforts to initiate criminal charges. Petitioner alleged, as relevant to this appeal, intentional interference with an expectancy. The circuit court granted Respondent's motion to dismiss, ruling that the cause of action for intentional interference with an inheritance is not a cause of action under Maryland law. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) this Court recognizes the tort of intentional interference with an inheritance or gift; but (2) the allegations in Petitioner's complaint were insufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. View "Barclay v. Castruccio" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals reversing the circuit court's judgment awarding damages to the Estate of Jeffrey Blair after finding that Baltimore City Police Officer David Austin used excessive force during his encounter with Blair, holding that the Court of Special Appeals erred when it overturned the jury's factual finding that Officer Austin exceeded the level of force that an objectively reasonable officer in his situation would have used.After Blair died of causes unrelated to the incident at issue Blair's Estate filed a complaint against Officer Austin. The jury determined that Officer Austin used excessive force in his interaction with Blair and awarded damages. The Court of Special Appeals reversed and held in favor of Officer Austin based on its independent weighing of a surveillance video. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the Court of Special Appeals erred when, based solely on its interpretation of the video evidence, it overturned the jury's factual finding that Officer Austin exceeded the level of force that an objectively reasonable officer in his situation would have used; and (2) legally sufficient evidence supported the trial court's decision to submit the case to the jury regarding Officer Austin's use of excessive force. View "Estate of Blair v. Austin" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Court of Appeals affirmed the conclusion of the Court of Special Appeals that the release Bernard Collins provided in settlement of his workers' compensation claims did not bar Peggy Collins from asserting her independent claim for death benefits under the Maryland Workers' Compensation Act, Md. Code Ann. Lab. & Empl. Title 9.Two years before he died, Bernard settled claims he had brought under the Act against Petitioners, his former employer and its insurers, for disability benefits related to his heart disease. In the parties' settlement agreement, Bernard purported to release Petitioners from any claims that he or his spouse might have under the Act relating to his disability. After Bernard died, Peggy filed her claim for benefits based on Bernard's death from heart disease. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Petitioners based on release. The Court of Special Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) because Peggy was not a party to the settlement agreement, Petitioners may not enforce the release against Peggy; and (2) Bernard's settlement of his claims under the Act did not extinguish Peggy's future claim for death benefits. View "In re Bernard L. Collins" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals agreed with the judgment of the hearing examiner granting line-of-duty (LOD) retirement benefits to Petitioner, a retired Baltimore City police officer, based on a finding of fact that Petitioner suffered from memory loss and attention deficits as a result of a mild traumatic brain injury, holding that the hearing examiner did not err.Police officers are potentially eligible for two different levels of disability benefits - a less substantial non-line-of-duty (NLOD) level of benefits or a more substantial LOD level of benefits. Benefits for NLOD disability may be awarded on the basis of a mental or physical incapacity, but benefits for LOD disability can only be awarded based on a physical incapacity. Petitioner suffered from memory loss and attention deficits as a result of a concussion in the course of his duties. The hearing examiner granted Petitioner LOD disability benefits, concluding that he was permanently physically incapacitated. The court of special appeals reversed, concluding that Petitioner's incapacities were mental rather than physical. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Petitioner was entitled to LOD benefits. View "Couret-Rios v. Fire & Police Employees' Retirement System of City of Baltimore" on Justia Law

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In these two cases arising from two instances of police misconduct the Court of Appeals held that the police officers were acting within the scope of their employment, and therefore, the City of Baltimore was responsible for compensating the plaintiffs.The officers in these cases were members of the Baltimore City Police Department's now-defunct Gun Trace Task Force. Members of the task force engaged in a wide-ranging racketeering conspiracy, resulting in the officers being convicted in federal court. These two cases arose out of instances in which the officers conducted stops and made arrests without reasonable articulable suspicion or probable cause. The plaintiffs and the officers agreed to a settlement of the lawsuits. As part of the settlements, the officers assigned to the plaintiffs the right to indemnification from the City. Thereafter, the plaintiffs sought payment of the settlements by the City. In both cases, the parties entered into a stipulated settlement of undisputed material facts. The Supreme Court held (1) the stipulations in both cases established that the officers' conduct satisfied the test for conduct within the scope of employment; and (2) therefore, the City was responsible for compensating the plaintiffs for the officers' actions by paying the settlements that the plaintiffs and the officers reached. View "Baltimore City Police Department v. Potts" on Justia Law

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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