The Importance of Error Preservation in Maryland Personal Injury and Car Accident Cases

The judge’s role in a Maryland personal injury case is to oversee the trial. This includes making pre-trial discovery and evidentiary decisions, as well as ruling on objections made by the parties during the trial. The judge is also responsible for instructing the jury on the applicable law after the parties have presented their evidence.

Judges, however, are human and occasionally make mistakes. Thus, the Maryland court system allows for a party to appeal an adverse legal decision that was made by a trial judge. In order to preserve a claim of error for appellate review, a party must be sure to follow specific procedures. Otherwise, the appellate court may determine that the error was not preserved. A recent case discusses error-preservation in the personal injury context.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was injured in a rear-end accident she claimed was caused by the defendant. Before trial, the plaintiff filed proposed jury instructions including an instruction on the doctrine of negligence per se. After the trial had begun, the court held a charging conference; however, the conference was not memorialized. At the end of the conference, the court determined that it was not going to instruct the jury on the plaintiff’s proposed negligence per se instruction. The court asked the parties if either had anything it wanted to put on the record, and the plaintiff’s attorney responded: “I have no issues with the charge, Your Honor.”

Ultimately, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant. The plaintiff filed post-trial motions and then an appeal, arguing that the trial court should have instructed the jury on negligence per se. The defendant claimed that the plaintiff had failed to preserve the issue by not objecting at the time the court determined it would not instruct the jury on negligence per se.

The Court’s Opinion

The court agreed with the defendant, determining that the plaintiff waived the issue she raised on appeal by failing to lodge a contemporaneous objection at the time the court refused to provide the jury with the plaintiff’s proposed instruction. The court noted that, in general, to preserve an issue for appellate review a party must place a timely objection on the record. This rule, the court explained, encourages trial lawyers to be prepared because they will not be able to rely on an appellate lawyer to catch what they may have missed.

The court held that by filing proposed jury instruction before the trial began, the plaintiff did not preserve the issue. The court explained that the plaintiff should have issued an objection during the charging conference and, if that conference was off the record, should have requested the objection be placed on the record. Because there was no objection to the court’s jury instruction on the record, the appellate court held that the plaintiff’s claim of error was unpreserved.

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 for the injuries you have sustained. At the dedicated Maryland personal injury law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC we have extensive experience representing injury victims in all types of claims, including car accidents. To learn more about how we can help you pursues a claim of compensation against the parties responsible for your injuries, call 410-654-3600 today.

More Blog Posts:

Court Concludes Truck Driver Was Independent Contractor of the Defendant Company, Rather Than an Employee, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published November 25, 2018.

Alcohol May Have Been Involved in Fatal Maryland Roadside Accident, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published November 9, 2018.

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