Earlier this week, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an auto accident case, affirming a jury verdict in favor of the defense. In the case, Marshall v. Peter, the jury determined that the defendant was not negligent when he ran into the back end of the plaintiff’s vehicle as both drivers were stopped at an intersection. The appellate court determined that reasonable jurors could have found that the defendant’s conduct was not negligent, and therefore it affirmed the verdict below.

Winter RoadThe Facts of the Case

Marshall was stopped in first position at an intersection, waiting for a green signal. When the signal changed to green, she started to proceed into the intersection with the defendant behind her. The defendant had removed his foot off the brake pedal, but he had not yet depressed the gas pedal when he noticed that Marshall’s car had stopped. He tried to brake but slid on the ice and collided with the rear end of Marshall’s vehicle.

Marshall filed a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver, claiming he was negligent in causing the collision. Marshall was seeking over $200,000 in economic and non-economic damages. The case was submitted to a jury, and it was decided the driver was not negligent. In a post-trial motion, Marshall asked the judge to override the jury’s verdict because “no reasonable juror” could have found that the defendant was not negligent.

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A state appellate court recently affirmed a jury’s decision to award no damages to a woman and her husband after they sued another driver for causing a motor vehicle accident. The driver of the other car admitted that he was at fault in the accident but denied that the woman was injured in the crash. The jury and the appeals court agreed with the defendant.

Car Crash

The accident occurred when the defendant swerved around a bus at a slow speed and sideswiped the woman’s car. The woman was alone in her car and wearing her seatbelt, and her body did not hit the dashboard, doors, or any other component inside the car. The airbags in the car did not deploy, and she did not request immediate medical attention. She drove herself home from the site of the accident.

The woman sued for injuries she claimed to have suffered to her back and neck. As a result of these injuries, she sought compensation for pain and suffering, as well as for future medical care, medications, and an inability to perform certain household chores and activities. In total, she requested compensation of between one and two million dollars. Her husband also sued the defendant for $275,000 for a loss of companionship, both past and present, due to the couple’s alleged inability to play golf, take walks, and engage in other forms of joint physical activity.

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Personal injury cases are often more complex than accident victims originally believe. One reason for this is that determining who may be liable for the accident is not always a straightforward task. Commonly, an accident involving only two vehicles involves more than just two parties. For example, if the at-fault driver was an on-duty employee who was operating within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident, the driver’s employer may also be a party to the lawsuit.

Front End DamageNaming all potentially liable parties from the outset of a personal injury case is extremely important for several reasons. Of course, it is more expedient to have all potentially liable parties involved from the beginning of a lawsuit. However, in some cases, a failure to do so may also result in a plaintiff’s inability to collect compensation for their injuries. This is especially the case when the later-named parties are only added after the statute of limitations has run out. A recent case decided by one state’s supreme court illustrates the trouble one plaintiff had in naming the proper party.

Sellers v. Kurdilla:  The Facts

Mrs. Sellers sustained injuries when she was rear-ended by another vehicle occupied by several men. Later, she filed a lawsuit against the owner of the vehicle, thinking that he had been the driver. The car’s owner asked the court to dismiss the case, explaining that he was not the driver at the time of the accident. The plaintiff then amended the complaint to add the name of the driver. However, this amendment was made after the statute of limitations had expired.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a case that reversed a lower court’s order granting a default judgment in favor of a plaintiff in a car accident case. In the case, Tucker v. Williams, the court ended up holding that the defendant’s failure to respond to the plaintiff’s complaint warranted a default judgment. However, when the defendant ultimately did respond, the trial court should have lifted the default judgment and reopened the case.

Fender DamageThe Facts of the Case

The Williamses were involved in a traffic accident that they claimed Tucker was responsible for causing. The accident left Mr. Williams with a permanent serious injury, so the couple filed a negligence lawsuit against Tucker. The case also named two insurance companies.

The two insurance companies responded to the lawsuit, denying liability and asking the court to dismiss the claims. However, Tucker did not respond. After about six months of waiting, the Williamses asked the court to enter a default judgment in their favor, since Tucker did not reply.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a car accident case, holding that a plaintiff’s failure to file her claim within the three-year period outlined in the policy contract was excusable because the insurance contract was internally contradictory. In the case, State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance v. Jakubwicz, the court held that any inconsistency in an insurance contract should be construed in favor of the insured, and State Farm should have allowed the plaintiff’s claim.

Signing a ContractThe Facts of the Case

Jakubwicz and her two sons were in an accident involving another motorist. Jakubwicz filed a timely lawsuit against the other motorist, who was responsible for the accident. A little over three years after the accident, Jakubwicz realized that the other party’s insurance coverage was insufficient to cover the cost of her family’s damages, so she filed a claim under the underinsured motorist provision of her own policy with State Farm.

State Farm denied the claim, pointing to language in the insurance contract that requires all claims to be filed within three years of an accident. However, in response, Jakubwicz pointed to another clause in the policy indicating that State Farm will only pay out on an underinsured motorist claim when the underinsured motorist’s own insurance is exhausted.

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Everyone with a driver’s license knows that driving while under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicating substances is against the law. In many cases, the fear of being caught by police, losing their driving privileges, and potentially facing a lengthy term of incarceration deters drivers from getting behind the wheel after they have too many drinks. However, the criminal consequences of a drunk driving conviction are only half of the repercussions that a drunk driver may face. There can also be significant civil consequences.

Broken HeadlampWhen someone is injured in a drunk driving accident, they are entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit against the drunk driver as well as the drunk driver’s insurance company, seeking monetary compensation for their injuries. These lawsuits proceed under the legal theory of negligence, which requires an accident victim to prove that the drunk driver was somehow negligent and that their negligence was the cause of the injuries. Moreover, since there is a specific statutory prohibition against drunk driving, people injured in a drunk driving accident can often take advantage of procedural “shortcuts” in proving a claim.

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Workers’ compensation is a program that is designed to compensate workers who are injured while on the job. In order to qualify for the program, an employer must meet certain criteria. If these criteria are met, an employee who is injured or killed while on the job may be required to seek compensation through the workers’ compensation program. However, if an employer fails to meet the necessary criteria, a personal injury case will not be barred, and an injured party may pursue a claim against their employer. A recent case illustrates how these cases proceed through the court system.

Snowy RoadKay v. Wiggins:  The Facts

Wiggins ran a furniture business. On the side, he would move Budget rental trucks from one location to another for extra income. Kay was an employee of Wiggins, who would help out both with the furniture business and also with the truck-relocation project. On the day in question, Wiggins asked Kay to relocate a truck. Because of inclement weather, Kay was reluctant. Wiggins told Kay that if the truck was not moved on that evening, it would have to be moved the next morning.

That next morning, Kay arrived, planning to relocate the truck. However, on the way to his destination, he was involved in an accident that claimed his life. Kay’s estate sued Wiggins, arguing that he was at least in part responsible for Kay’s death. In response, Wiggins asked the court to dismiss the case and showed the court documentation that he was in compliance with the state’s workers’ compensation program. Kay provided nothing to rebut this evidence.

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The State Supreme Court of Maine recently affirmed a lower court’s decision to grant summary judgment in favor of a truck rental company and an employer after an employee who was driving the truck was killed when the van slid off an icy road. About a year and a half after the fatal accident, the estate of the victim brought a lawsuit against the rental company and the driver’s employer. Both parties moved to dismiss the case and argued that they did not breach a duty owed to the employee, they did not proximately cause the employee’s death, and they were not vicariously liable for his death.

Truck in SnowThe lower court agreed and granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The plaintiff’s estate then appealed. However, in a recently released opinion, the higher court agreed with the court below and concluded that they did not need to determine the specific and actual nature of the relationship between the two defendants because the plaintiffs did not present evidence to show that they were responsible.

Employer Responsibility and Liability in Maryland Personal Injury Lawsuits

In certain situations, a person may be actually injured by one party, but another party or entity may also be proximately liable. Essentially, proximate liability means that although a party may not have actually caused the injury, they engaged in some behavior that led to the injury or accident. A common situation in which this arises is when an employee is injured or causes an injury while they are performing a duty in the scope of their employment.

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As this blog has previously noted, Maryland does not have a Dram Shop Act that victims of drunk driving accident victims can use to hold the party who served the drunk driver responsible. However, according to a very recent case from the Maryland Court of Appeals, Maryland law now imposes a duty on adults who knowingly or willingly serve alcohol to minors.

Bottles of WhiskeyKiriakos v. Phillips

In the case of Kiriakos v. Phillips, the court consolidated two different cases that presented a similar issue. Thus, in addition to the case brought by Kiriakos, there was also a case titled Dankos v. Stapf. Courts rarely do this but will from time to time when a nearly identical issue is presented by two separate cases.

While both cases presented similar issues, the Dankos case presents the issue more clearly. Steven Dankos, a 17-year-old, was killed in a traffic accident after he and some friends were partying at the defendant’s home. The defendant was an adult woman who allowed the defendant and his friends to consume alcohol at her home. Specifically, Dankos and company were in the defendant’s garage. The evidence presented at trial showed that the defendant would check in on the under-age children occasionally, but she never once told them to stop drinking. Furthermore, she never told them to refrain from driving after they had consumed too much to drink.

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Earlier this month, a California appellate court issued a written opinion in a liability case allowing a pedestrian injured while crossing the street to attend a church event to sue the church under a premises liability theory. The court explained that, while the general rule is that a landowner is not liable for injuries that occur off his or her premises, there are some situations where liability is appropriate.

City StreetThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was attending an evening event at his local church. The church had a small parking lot located immediately adjacent to the building, but it often filled up. To ensure that attendees had ample room to park, the church arranged with a nearby business to allow church attendees to park in the business’ lot. The lot was across a busy street. There were crosswalks on either side of the block, but the parking lot was mid-block and so was the church, so the most straightforward way from the lot to the church to directly cross the five-lane road mid-block.

On the day in question, the plaintiff drove through the church’s main lot and was directed by volunteer parking attendants to go to the auxiliary lot across the street. As the plaintiff parked and left the lot toward the church, he was hit by a passing vehicle. The plaintiff sued the church, arguing that the placement of the auxiliary lot was dangerous and that the church failed to protect against the type of injury he sustained.

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