Plaintiff Sanctioned by Court for Bringing Claim for Punitive Damages Without Basis

Earlier this month, a state supreme court heard a case that was filed by one motorist against another, alleging that the defendant’s negligence caused not only the accident but also the injuries the plaintiff suffered. The case contained claims of both compensatory and punitive damages, alleging that the defendant’s “willful, wanton, and reckless” actions entitled the plaintiff to punitive damages. Ultimately, however, the court disagreed with the plaintiff and not only denied the request for punitive damages but also sanctioned the plaintiff for making the claims when there was no basis to do so.

Smizer v. Drey: The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was traveling to church with several family members in the car, when the defendant crashed into them. In the specific intersection where the accident occurred, the defendant had a yield sign. Evidence showed that the speed limit was 65 miles per hour and that the defendant was traveling at 45 miles per hour and slowed to 35 miles per hour as she entered the intersection. However, as she entered the intersection, she did not see the plaintiff’s vehicle because a cornfield obscured her view.

By the time she did see the plaintiff’s vehicle, it was too late, and the vehicles collided. The defendant admitted to failing to yield at the intersection and was cited by police for the same.

The plaintiff brought an ordinary negligence action, seeking compensatory and punitive damages. After being asked several times by the defendant and the court for the basis of the punitive damages, the plaintiff explained that the defendant “engaged in extreme and outrageous conduct in operating her motor vehicle in conscious disregard of the traffic laws of [the] State.” While the defendant did not deny liability as to the accident, she did take issue with the claim for punitive damages.

The plaintiff continued to push the issue of punitive damages, although the evidence did not seem to support it. The court eventually found that the defendant was liable to the plaintiff for compensatory damages, but the punitive damages claim was without merit. The judge also determined that since there was no evidence at all of any “willful, wanton, or reckless” behavior on the part of the defendant, the plaintiff should be sanctioned for continuing with the claim in the face of multiple requests for evidence. Ultimately, the court required the plaintiff to pay for the defendant’s attorney costs associated with defending against the punitive damages claim.

Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been the victim of another’s negligence in a Maryland car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. However, as noted above, punitive damages may not always be on the table, depending on the facts of your case. An honest attorney can give you a straightforward assessment of your case, and what you may be entitled to if you are successful. Call one of the skilled personal injury advocates at the Maryland-based injury law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers at 410-654-3600 to set up your free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Car Accident Victim’s Failure to Submit Evidence of Negligence Results in Dismissal of Case, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published January 5, 2016.

Court Finds “Good Faith” of Trooper Resulted in Governmental Immunity, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published December 16, 2015.

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