Maryland Appeals Court Upholds Constitutionality of Cap on Non-Economic Damages

The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland recently decided a Maryland car accident case in which the court considered whether the state’s cap on non-economic damages was unconstitutional. In Maryland, there is a cap on non-economic damages in personal injury and wrongful death claims. In a personal injury claim, non-economic damages include damages for “pain, suffering inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement, loss of consortium, or other nonpecuniary injury.”

In a wrongful death claim, non-economic damages include damages for “mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, loss of society, companionship, comfort, protection, care, marital care, parental care, filial care, attention, advice, counsel, training, guidance, or education,” or other noneconomic damaged authorized under the statute. If a jury awards party an amount that exceeds the non-economic damages cap, the court will reduce the amount to the maximum allowed. A jury also cannot be informed of the cap.

In the case before the appeals court, the plaintiff was seriously injured in a car accident in 2017. She was driving near her home in Lanham, Maryland, when a car crossed over the median and hit her car. The other driver was driving a commercial vehicle for his employer and was intoxicated at the time of the crash. His employer knew that he had charges for driving while intoxicated prior to hiring him. The plaintiff’s injuries included losing almost all use of her left arm or hand. She had to undergo almost continuous medical care since the accident occurred, in addition to psychological treatment.

A jury found the defendant driver and his employer liable for the crash and awarded the plaintiff about $315,000 for medical expenses, $2,500,000 for non-economic damages, and $3,000,000 for punitive damages as to the company. After the jury’s verdict, the court reduced the non-economic damage award from $2,500,000 to $830,000, which was the cap at the time. The plaintiff appealed the court’s decision, arguing that the state cap was unconstitutional.

The Court’s Decision

The court rejected the plaintiff’s argument. It found that the legislature had a legitimate legislative objective, and held that the cap did not interfere with the jury’s role and its ability to resolve factual issues. It concluded that the cap does not violate the equal protection clause or the right to a jury trial. It also found that the cap does not violate the Separation of Powers clause in the Maryland Declaration of Rights. Therefore, the appeals court affirmed the trial court’s decision.

Have You Been Injured?

If you or a loved one has been injured in a Maryland car accident, contact a law firm with extensive experience handling serious personal injury claims. The knowledgeable injury at attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, Personal Injury Lawyers represent injured individuals in the Baltimore region and surrounding areas, including throughout Washington, D.C. and Virginia. The aftermath of a serious car crash can be overwhelming, but we have the tenacity and resources to pursue all of the parties responsible for causing your injuries and losses. To set up a free consultation regarding your personal injury claim, call us at (410) 654-3600 or toll-free at (800) 654-1949 or contact us through our online form.

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