Articles Posted in Government Liability

funeralEarlier this month, a state appellate court issued a decision in a wrongful death case arising out of a drunk-driving accident that occurred at the 2014 South by Southwest (SXSW) festival. The case required the court to determine whether the plaintiff’s case, which was brought against the venue organizers as well as the City where the festival occurred, should be permitted to proceed toward a jury trial over the defendants’ summary judgment motion. Ultimately, the court determined that the case should be dismissed against each of the defendants, albeit for different reasons.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was the surviving spouse of a man who was killed when a drunk driver fleeing from police drove through a barrier and into a crowd of people at the city-wide SXSW festival. Due to the multi-venue nature of the festival, festival organizers needed to apply for several use permits from the city. In particular, the use permit stated that “[a]ll traffic controls must be provided in accordance with the approved traffic control plan.”

Evidently, festival organizers closed three linear blocks, installing traffic barriers at each intersection. A police officer was also placed at each intersection to keep watch. However, the barricades failed to stop a drunk-driver from crashing through them and driving into a crowd of people. The plaintiff’s spouse was among four who were killed.

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police officerRecently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing an important issue that frequently arises in Maryland car personal injury cases that name a government employee or entity as a defendant. The case required the court to determine if the plaintiff’s case against a police officer and the city that employed the officer could proceed to trial over the defendants’ claim that they were immune from liability under the state’s tort claims act.

Ultimately, the court concluded that the officer’s conduct at the time of the accident was within the scope of his duty and, while it may have been negligent, was not “reckless.” Thus, immunity was appropriate for both the individual officer and the city.

The Facts of the Case

The defendant police officer received a call that an intoxicated person was lying unconscious on the sidewalk outside a Days Inn. The officer hastily responded to the call, and cut through a parking lot on his way to the scene.

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stop signRecently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing whether a plaintiff’s case against the city that was responsible for maintaining the intersection where she was struck by another motorist could proceed to trial. The case presents important issues of government immunity that may arise in Maryland car accident cases that are filed against the state or federal government.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was driving northbound, and was approaching an intersection. As the plaintiff entered the intersection, she did not stop or slow down and continued through the intersection without seeing that another car was coming. The plaintiff was side-swiped by the other motorist and sustained serious injuries as a result.

The plaintiff later learned that the stop sign for northbound traffic had fallen and was lying on the ground. She explained that she did not see the stop sign or the car before entering the intersection. The plaintiff then filed a personal injury lawsuit against the city based on its failure to maintain the road signs at the intersection.

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Recently, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a car accident case involving a plaintiff’s allegations that she was injured when a U.S. Postal Service (USPS) employee negligently caused an accident while operating a USPS vehicle. The case is important for Maryland car accident victims because it required the court to determine if the plaintiff complied with the filing requirements of the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), which may apply in certain Maryland car accident cases.Legal News Gavel

The Federal Tort Claims Act

Traditionally, the federal government was immune from lawsuits brought by citizens unless the government gave its consent to be named as a party. However, in 1946, Congress passed the FTCA, carving out certain exceptions to the general grant of governmental immunity.

In order to successfully bring a case under the FTCA, a plaintiff must comply with the procedural requirements contained therein. Relevant to this case were the filing requirements listed in 28 U.S.C. section 2401(b), which states that a plaintiff must file their case with the “appropriate Federal agency within two years after such claim accrues” or “within six months after the date . . . of notice of final denial of the claim.”

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing whether a government entity may be held liable for its failure to place road signs in advance of a dead-end road. Ultimately, the court concluded that both the defendant township and the defendant county were immune from liability. This case presents important issues for Maryland car accident victims who believe that their accident was caused at least in part by the dangerous condition of a Maryland highway.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the surviving loved ones of two people who drowned after their vehicle ended up in a river at the end of a dead-end road. Evidently, there was a sign stating “Pavement Ends” approximately 600 feet before the river bank, but there was no sign indicating that motorists should slow down, nor were there protective barriers along the river’s bank.

The plaintiffs filed a wrongful death lawsuit against both the township and the county where the accident occurred, claiming that the government agency’s failure to place the sign and barriers was negligent and contributed to the deaths of their loved ones.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case that presented an interesting issue relevant to many Maryland car accident cases. The case required the court to determine if a government official’s design of a highway was discretionary despite the fact that the official did not contemplate the design advocated by the plaintiff. Ultimately, the court concluded that the official’s design was an exercise of discretion and affirmed the lower court’s finding that the government was entitled to immunity.

Legal News GavelGovernment Immunity Generally

As a general rule, a government cannot be held liable for injuries caused by the negligence of its agencies or officials. However, under the Maryland Tort Claims Act, this immunity is waived in certain circumstances. One instance in which immunity is waived is when someone is injured due to the negligence of a government employee while carrying out a ministerial action, meaning an action that does not involve the exercise of discretion.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in a car accident when the vehicle in which he was riding as a passenger drifted off the road. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the government, arguing that the government was negligent for failing to place rumble strips along the shoulder of the road.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a negligence case involving the alleged misplacement of a construction barrel by the state’s department of transportation. The case contains a discussion about the duties of a government to keep public roads safe, which is important for Maryland car accident victims who have been injured due to the poor condition of a public road.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was driving along an Idaho highway towing a trailer. The plaintiff entered a construction zone, and there were orange barrels lined up along both sides of the only lane of travel that was open to motorists. As the plaintiff continued down the highway, she noticed a barrel was placed directly in the lane of travel. Unable to avoid the barrel, the plaintiff struck the barrel with the awning of her trailer.

Thankfully, the plaintiff was not injured and only sustained somewhat minor property damage to her trailer. However, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the state’s department of transportation, claiming that it was negligent in the placement of the barrel and should be responsible for the repair costs to the trailer.

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