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.
Government 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.
In support of his argument, the plaintiff presented an affidavit from the government official who designed the road back in 1992. That official explained that he did not consider the use of rumble strips when designing the road because rumble strips were not commonly used back in the early 1990s.
The plaintiff claimed that the government official’s admission that he did not consider installing rumble strips meant that the official’s design of the road was not discretionary. Essentially, the plaintiff claimed that the official could not be said to have used discretion in the planning process if he did not even consider the use of rumble strips.
The court, however, disagreed and found that the government official was exercising discretion in planning the road. In so holding, the court explained that the determination of whether the exercise of discretion was involved requires courts to determine if the official had discretion over the entire planning process as a whole, rather than whether the official considered each alternative design individually. As a result, the court affirmed the government’s asserted immunity and dismissed the plaintiff’s case.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated car accident lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience representing victims in a wide range of claims, including car accident cases. To learn more, and to speak with a dedicated Maryland personal injury advocate about your case, call 410-654-3600 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.