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.
The 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.
The Court’s Analysis
The court first considered the plaintiffs’ case against the township. The court noted that, under state law, only certain government entities have the authority to place road signs. Indeed, the court cited a statute listing five counties where the township – rather than the county – was responsible for the placement of road signs. The county where the accident, occurred, however, was not listed among those with the authority to place signage. Thus, the court concluded that the township was not negligent in failing to place the signs because it did not actually have any obligation or authority to do so.
Next, the court considered the asserted immunity of the county. The court determined that, since the placement of road signs was a discretionary matter governed by flexible “standards” rather than statutory mandates, immunity was appropriate. The court explained that the plaintiffs failed to present evidence indicating that the road condition was so dangerous or in such ill repair that a warning sign was statutorily required. The fact that a sign could have helped prevent the accident was not sufficient to establish a waiver of immunity.
Maryland Immunity Issues
As was the case above, certain claims against government entities will be subject to potential claims of immunity. However, Maryland handles government immunity differently, allowing claims to proceed up to the limit of $400,000 per claimant. Thus, even if immunity is found to apply, there is still a viable avenue of recovery.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Car Accident?
At the Maryland personal injury law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, we have successfully represented clients in all types of Maryland car accident cases, including those brought against state and local governments. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today. Calling is free, and we will not bill you for our services unless we are able to help you obtain the compensation you deserve.
More Blog Posts:
Court Discusses Plaintiff’s Duty to Preserve Evidence in Recent Car Accident Case, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published April 3, 2018.
Court Determines Insurance Adjuster May Have Obtained Favorable Settlement Through Undue Influence, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published March 19, 2018.