Ron Miller is a Maryland personal injury lawyer who focuses on serious injury and wrongful death cases involving motor vehicle collisions, medical malpractice, and products and premises liability. This site is designed to provide practical information to both injury victims and plaintiffs' attorneys in the Baltimore-Washington area who want to achieve a fair settlement or verdict. If you are looking for counsel for your case, call him at 410-779-4600

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Facebook discovery is all the rage amongst defense lawyers in personal injury cases.  The reason is twofold.  First, it gets defense lawyers Facebook and magifying glassaccess to information that might lead to admissible evidence that could diminish a plaintiff’s claim.  Rarely will it relate to liability but there is a real possibility that out-of-context (or in context) it would lead a jury to believe their pain is less than stated.

The second reason, and I think an equally driving force, is that defense lawyers have a new tool to harass the plaintiff(s).  Why? Because there is at least a sub population of defense lawyers who want to punish plaintiffs and their lawyers for bringing any personal injury claim.  This is the type of discovery that can be done without any real effort.  All you have to do is ask.  That is the real beauty of this discovery from the defense lawyer’s perspective.  You just cut and paste from the guy down the hall or something you find online (I’m helping them here) and then just shout “reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence” if the plaintiff’s attorney objects.

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Let me start off by saying I’m generally skeptical of the benefits of an accident reconstructionist as an expert witness in most car accident cases.shutterstock_252879895

Why?  Generally, I think in most liability dispute cases, jurors feel like they have all the information to make the call.  Jurors think they understand basis physics and who is telling the truth and generally don’t look for help from an accident reconstructionist.  We had a young lawyer trying his first case against a big law firm in a liability dispute case.  The defendants hired one of the best accident reconstructionists in Maryland.  Our client barely spoke English.  We did not bring an expert.  But we won, because the jury heard the facts and believed our client.

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Bill Cosby has been in the news a little bit.  As you know, dozens of women have alleged that Bill Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted them. The claims date back to the 1960s, with the allegedbill-cosby-2-768 victims ranging from random women that Cosby encountered to other celebrities. A recent lawsuit even alleged that Cosby assaulted underage women. Obviously, some pretty serious allegations.

A few lawsuits have been filed already, but most of them allege defamation or some other cause of action – separate from sexual assault. Why? Because most of these claims allege conduct after the statute of limitations expired.  Of course, someone is going to try to end run the statute of limitations.  But as Americans are now seeing statutes of limitation are cruelly unforgiving, even when anyone’s sense of justice and fair play are pitted against it.

But what would a lawsuit against Bill Cosby even look like? Specifically, what would a lawsuit against Bill Cosby look like, if filed in the state of Maryland?  Sexual assault and rape are not their own torts – but they are crimes.  These torts may be brought forward and filed in a civil lawsuit for these crimes.

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I hate the New England Patriots. I started rooting against them the minute they started getting good in 2001.  While I hate Tom Brady as a byproduct, I have to admit that — notwithstanding Bradymaybe Bridget Moyahan — he is pretty much the epitome of what we want our great athletes to be.

Adding to my hatred of the Patriots, I’ve sued — and settled – a malpractice case against the Pats in which they took a score of ridiculous positions, including the position that the claim should be arbitrated by the CBA, a claim they first made years after the case was filed.  Their arrogance over the course of the case was pretty much what you would expect.  The idea of settlement was completely ridiculous up until the point where it wasn’t.  But I long admired their winning and, it goes without saying, the breadth and scope of their evil.

Over the years, one theme I have revisited on my blogs is the distorted perception people have in regards to our civil justice system’s administration of personal injury cases.  In my mind, there are two main distorters – maybe a word I made up – that mislead people: large jury verdicts and how the civil justice system treats famous people.  Prime example: Tom Brady’s Deflategate lawsuit which I really think underscores some of these distortions.

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The Maryland Court of Special Appeals recently decided Johnson v. Franklin, a lead paint case with an unique discovery issue.law

The Underlying Case

I’m glad you kept reading, you law scholar you!  Anyway, these are the facts. A lead paint case is filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court pertaining to a property where Plaintiff used to live. The property had long since been rehabbed and sold.  Therefore, Plaintiff could not just walk in the door to do the lead-paint testing, that he claimed he needed for his lawsuit. As a result, Plaintiff sends a letter to the current owner, asking if he can stop by for some “non-invasive environmental testing” of the property. The owner does not respond, which prompts the plaintiff to file a complaint to perpetuate the evidence. Specifically, he seeks an “equitable bill of discovery,” which would grant him a right of access to the property. The current owner does not respond to the motion but appears at a hearing pro se.  The court denies the motion, because the current owner’s privacy interests outweighs the Plaintiff’s need to conduct testing.

This makes little sense to me.  How burdensome is it to have your property tested?  I can’t figure out why the property owner would fight it either. Plaintiff agrees and appeals to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, alleging that the trial court abused its discretion by denying the complaint/request/petition.

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facebookSocial media is great. It’s an excellent way to maintain contact with old friends.  It’s an excellent place to get news before any TV station gets it.   You can even follow Miller & Zois on Facebook.

But it is a scary new world.  How many times have you heard about someone getting fired or disciplined because of an ill-advised post or comment? How many politicians have resigned because they thought it was a good idea to send a “private” message to a intern?  How many people have been arrested from a tip found on social media?

Facebook and other forms of social media can also spell trouble for lawyers, too.  In New Jersey, two attorneys were recently sanctioned for sending a Facebook friend request to another party.

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Two companion uninsured/underinsured motorist cases out of Cecil County were decided by the Maryland Court of Appeals last month.  The take home message for Maryland lawyers handling coauninsured motorist cases: if you don’t follow the rules by settling with the underlying carrier, the court is not going to let you off the mat.  It is the ultimate in form over substance.  I disagree with the law, but I can’t quibble with the court’s 6-1 decision.  Really? Insurance companies should not be trying to eviscerate insurance agreements with their own clients, because their lawyers screwed up.

Both cases, Woznicki v. General Insurance Company and Morse v. Erie Insurance Exchange involved the typical scenario; in which the tortfeasor’s liability insurance tenders the policy and the plaintiff’s attorney accepts, while intending to make an uninsured motorist claim.  This is a special set of facts. In this case, the insured’s UM policy explicitly stated that they had to bless any settlement with the tortfeasor’s liability insurance carrier  — or pony up the policy themselves —  to activate the UM coverage after a release was signed.

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The Fourth Circuit decided a case that addresses an interesting insurance law question; while also touching on another issue that vexes medical malpractice lawyers in Maryland.  The 4th Circuit overruled a great judge, Federal Magistrate Jillyn K. Schulze, who awarded summary judgment against a suspended surgeon for making a disability claim.

new 4th CircuitWhile cursed with a boring name, Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London v. Cohen, is a case that has some interesting facts.  The Plaintiffs are underwriters at Lloyd’s of London.  The defendant was a general surgeon in Bethesda, who was suspended for three months from practicing medicine in Maryland, because he violated the standard of care, kept inadequate medical records and grossly over-utilized health care services.  I’m not sure of all the details, but they are pretty strong allegations against a surgeon.  Anyway, the insurers wanted to rescind a disability policy, because the doctor made material misrepresentations on a disability policy, which he later sought benefits.

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What boggles peoples minds is the fact that a large number of Maryland car accidents that lead to death and disability settle for $100,000 or less.  Some settle for $30,000 in case where the liability is clear or even if the defendant was drunk out of his mind.

How to get more than the auto insurance policy limits?

How to get more than the auto insurance policy limits

How does this happen?  In many cases, the key to recovery is finding insurance.  You have to know where to look and you have to know how to look.  But sometimes there is nothing there even when you look in the right places.

Okay…so how can this happen?  Maryland requires that each licensed vehicle be covered by auto insurance of some kind.  But the  minimum auto liability insurance required is quite low in relation to the [30] potential that a vehicle will inflict harm. Consequently, a driver may be hit by another car that has as little as $30,000 in maximum liability coverage ($15,000 per person/$30,000 per accident). The non-negligent driver may have been severely injured by another driver who has few personal assets, in which case, even prompt payment of the negligent driver’s $30,000 in liability insurance will do little to compensate the severely injured non-negligent driver. As a result, every driver is constantly at risk of being severely injured by another, largely impecunious driver with low policy limits.

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A new study on emergency room malpractice was released today that looks at why ER doctors are so frequently sued in misdiagnosis claims.

The study was conducted by The Doctors Company, which is a big insured of doctors, hospitals and physician groups.  It is easy to roll your eyes because you know these folks come with an agenda. And of course their conclusions are euphemistic distortions or maybe downright fictions, but I take most of the data at face value, because I can’t see the point of cooking the relative malpractice incidence rates.

bloodpressure4The study looked at 332 closed emergency room malpractice claims.  Four types of cases made up the lion’s share of the cases:

  • Misdiagnosis: 57%
  • Improper Management: 13%
  • Improper Treatment: 5%
  • Failure to Order Medications: 3%

Misdiagnosis is the biggest culprit.  The study says 57%; I would have put this number at 75 percent. Misdiagnosis includes the failure to make a differential diagnosis and the failure to consider all of the symptoms of the patient’s condition.  I would love to see data on “just didn’t know” versus “just didn’t take the time” because my very unscientific guess is that they are probably equally balanced.  But the study does take a roundabout shot at trying to answer this question, breaking up misdiagnosis cases like this:

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