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 410-553-6000

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maryland-lawA U.S. federal court judge made a ruling on some motions that are of interest to Maryland medical malpractice attorneys.  They deal with a motion for summary judgment and, a pet interest of mine, holding defendants feet to the fire when they give garbage answers to requests for admission.

This is a birth injury claim against Defendants Calvert Memorial Hospital of Calvert County, that hospital’s emergency room and emergency room doctor, and the United States.  The government is a defendant for care given at Andrews Air Force Base.

Plaintiff  got prenatal care on Andrews Air Force Base.   A month before delivering, the mom-to-be presented with high blood pressure and had laboratory studies with elevated proteins, symptoms that indicate some risk of preeclampsia.  Three weeks later, the woman gives birth to her daughter at Calvert Memorial Hospital.

Five days later, she presents back to the hospital with high blood pressure,  headache, nausea, “tingly” feeling, and feeling light headed. She was evaluated by the defendant emergency department doctor.  He gave her a head  CT which was thought to be normal and they found no protein in her urine.  She was discharged with instructions to follow up with her OB/GYN which she did the very next day because she was still doing poorly.

The woman went to the OB/GYN at Andrews with a blood pressure of 181/93 and she still had a headache. Her OB  treated the pressure symptoms by prescribing an anti-hypertensive.  She was discharged.  Again. That night, she went to the ER at Andrews and had a seizure in the waiting room.

What happened? She had a brain hemorrhage from preplampsia.

A lawsuit follows.  Many, many medical malpractice lawsuits are contentious.  But malpractice claims like this where there are multiple target defendants almost always lead to World War III.  And this case has delivered as promised: motions to compel answers to requests for admission, oppositions to request for more time, failed mediation, battles of ex parte communications with doctor, Facebook discovery battles, motions to seal exhibits, and so forth.  It is one of those “who loses the slowest” pieces of litigation.

Summary Judgment

The big issue the court was addressed with for this opinion is whether to grant defendant’s motion for summary judgment.  Plaintiff had just one causation expert and one standard of care expert.

This battle on summary judgment is fought deep in the weeds.  They claim the plaintiff’s standard of care expert only testified to his own standard of care, not what the doctor had an obligation to do.  How do they do this?  But nitpicking word choice.  The court did not have much to say about this issue.  Presumably, the court was not going to raise silly technicalities over the clear substance of the expert’s testimony.

The bigger claim was that even assuming the doctor was able to get the patient’s blood pressure down, the plaintiffs’ own causation expert could not say that the alleged negligence caused the injury.   This is one of those things that absolutely terrifies you when you get the motion.  But this is just one of the expert’s opinions and what the defendant did was take one statement out of context and try to get the entire case dismissed as a result. [I got half way through the details but hit delete because it was too specific for the scope of this post.  It is fair to say that the defense had a point… until you considered the full context.]  It is pretty hard to blow these kinds of arguments past a federal court judge.

Requests for Admission Battle

Requests for admission are a good tool for parties in malpractice cases and they are a good tool for judicial economy.  Why more attorneys do not use them is a mystery to me. Actually, it is not entirely a mystery.  One reason no one uses them is that getting anything other than obstructionist answers is near impossible.  But this plaintiffs’ lawyer did what he should do and held plaintiffs’ feet to the fire.  So they modified their ridiculous “vague and overbroad” objections to something more substantive that was still not remotely substantive.   He filed a motion to compel.

Most of the requests were to narrow down the plaintiffs’ medical history.

It is not worth getting too deep into the details of these requests either. But  most of the requests went something like this:

Q: Admit that, prior to the pregnancy, Ms. Ford did not have a history high blood pressure?

A:  This Defendant lacks sufficient information to either admit or deny the information set forth in this request insofar as this Defendant has not been provided with mental health records dating back to adolescence for Angela Ford and therefore denies the same.

The court found that the defendants really could not know with certainty the answer and qualified it appropriately. I’m eager to disagree with the court on this but it is hard.  I think the question could have been better framed by saying “you have no evidence that” because it is a little hard to prove that negative.

It will be interesting to hear how this case resolves.

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settlement3Valuing car accident cases for settlement in Maryland is a challenge. The most important thing in any case is the severity of the injuries. That is probably all that should matter.  But there are many more variables that drive how much money the insurance company will offer to settle an injury claim before a lawsuit is filed.  This is a list of 12 factors that really matter in determining the settlement value of any auto collision injury claim:

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malpractice 2Most malpractice lawsuits in Maryland are resolved after negotiating through adversarial bargaining.  At the end of the day, our clients only have two options: settle or go to trial. Sometimes, they do not even have two options.  We have tried medical malpractice cases where there was no settlement offer.

Is There a Formula to Determine the Value of Medical Malpractice Cases?

There is a settlement formula to determine the value of a medical malpractice claim.   The formula has four parts:

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lawyers2Most of the medical malpractice cases Miller & Zois handles come from cases that are referred from other Maryland attorneys.  These cases come from other lawyers who do not focus their practice on medical malpractice cases, or the size and the expenses in the case or the specific issues presented are such that getting other counsel involved makes the most sense.

In these cases, we do 70%-30% fee split with the referring law consistent with Maryland Rule 1.5 in medical negligence cases. Our firm fronts and bears the risk on all costs and expenses. I put that 70%-30% number right out there because fee splits always seem cloaked in mystery. The only information on line that involves fee splits comes from appellate opinions. So we want to get it out there.

This post talks about how this works in Maryland, why this is actually a good system for victims, and discusses a Maryland Court of Special Appeals case pending on this issue.  If this post reminds potential referring lawyers that we handle medical malpractice cases and invites lawyers to refer cases to our law firm, all the better.

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elderlysigningBecoming the victim of an auto accident can have a profound effect on your life. Even though an accident can happen in the span of a few seconds, it can result in death or injuries and hardships that last months, years, or a lifetime. With that in mind, victims of auto accidents should seek an attorney to ensure that they are compensated for their injuries and/or losses. However, not every attorney is qualified to handle every case. Clients should ensure that they receive the representation that they deserve.   Here are five things to consider when hiring a Maryland car accident attorney:

History of Results

Car accident claims are about money.   That’s it.  The car accident lawyer’s goal has to be to maximize the amount of money the client can put in their pocket.   There is no reason to run from this.  Our civil justice system is based on the payment of money compensation to balance out the harm that was caused.  The point is that you want a law firm that has the goal of getting you as much money as possible and has a history of doing it for their clients.  So when dealing with an accident claim, why jeopardize your potential recovery by placing it in the hands of an attorney (or law firm) without a proven track-record of obtaining money for clients?  Really, it is like putting a high school kid in center field for the Baltimore Orioles.  While skill obviously matters when looking for a lawyer, anyone with a potential auto accident claim must seek the help of an attorney who can turn that skill into results for their client.

Experience

In any auto accident case, the need for an experienced attorney is a no-brainer. You need a lawyer with experience representing plaintiffs in these types of cases. But how can you figure out who has real experience and who is just running television commercials so frequently that people just assume they have experience.  First, go back to results, right?  There are a lot of lawyers that get good results because they get so many cases via good marketing because they are bound to get a few good scores just like a blind squirrel will still find acorns.  But it is still a pretty reliable barometer to use as a threshold test.  Next, try to get a flavor of how they are viewed in the legal community.  We always tell prospective clients to call other lawyers and ask for a list of names of the other law firms that handle these cases well.   Most lawyers will answer honestly and you will hear the same few firms over and over again.  Next, read what they write on line.  Are they really providing information that makes sense that you can use?  Do they seem like lawyers who will fight for and stand behind their clients?

Knowledge and Resources

You are probably starting to see how interwoven these categories are.  Our law firm offers free consultations on your case.  So does pretty much every other personal injury lawyer in Maryland.   So take plaintiffs’ lawyer up on this offer.  Talk to them.  You might not understand Maryland accident law and the best path through the system. But I bet you are smart enough to figure out who knows what they are talking about.  Again, also read what they put on-line.  Certainly, it is not a full proof plan.  I found great information on websites from lawyers who I do not think are qualified to handle the cases on which they are speaking quite eloquently.  They probably cut and pasted their wisdom from somewhere.  But, in combination with these other factors, it is a good gauge of who is who. Our firm puts our work on-line.  You can see our depositions.  You can read our trial transcripts.  We have videos on line where we talk about these cases.  Evaluate us and evaluate other lawyers, too.

Respect

Everyone wants a lawyer who respects them and will fight for them.  That’s obvious.  The question is how to find the lawyer and how do you find and evaluate which lawyer will do that for you.  You can look at testimonials, sure, but they do not give you a great flavor.  On-line reviews are very misleading because you either have a firm who is pushing for on-line reviews which might give you an incorrect impression or you are listening to a few angry people who usually are just upset that the firm investigated their case and then declined to represent them.  The best thing you can do is talk to the lawyer and ask the hard questions about the type of service you are going to receive.

Reputation

You need someone with extensive knowledge of auto accident claims, vast experience of settling and trying cases, exemplary client satisfaction, and a track record of getting monetary awards for its clients.  One gauge is the legal awards.   The attorneys at Miller & Zois, for example,  have been recognized by all of the major outlets that give out legal distinctions for Maryland personal injury lawyers: “SuperLawyers,” “Best Lawyers in America,” and “Avvo” and so forth.  I’m proud of these awards.  These are useful, up to a point.  But only up to a point.  I certainly don’t think my inclusion on these lists is a critical component of why I’m qualified to handle you case.  I think you really need to talk to other lawyers to find out who the big players are in Maryland injury cases and, circling back one more time, look at the results these lawyers have gotten.

Hiring Miller & Zois

If you are the victim of an auto accident, or an attorney looking to refer an auto accident case, contact Miller & Zois at 800-553-8082. We offer a free initial consultation for clients and have the tools required to successfully argue your case.

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lawyersThe medical malpractice arm of our law firm has continued to grow over the last 10 years.   I think it is interesting to see who the defense lawyers are in these cases.  It matters who you draw as defense counsel.  You would think, as a plaintiff’s lawyer, you would like to draw the least competent counsel as possible.

There is some truth to this.  Lazy and incompetent counsel sometimes miss key defenses and critical arguments that the health care provide should make.   But this rule has a lot of exceptions.  Defense lawyers who get behind the eight ball sometimes make it even harder on us.  Because it is impossible to schedule depositions, get discovery responses and otherwise push the case forward.  You usually get to the same place in the end but sometimes the workload doubles just because the other side is so nonresponsive.  Sometimes, particularly if you have a quality liability case, you are best served by having quality defense lawyers who do what it takes to properly defend the case.

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xareltoAll Xarelto lawsuits, including lawsuits to be filed by Maryland residents, will be consolidated before U.S. District Judge Eldon E. Fallon in the Eastern District of Louisiana.

This happened quickly.  Xarelto came on to the market three years ago.  Now there is a class action type MDL that has been created because there are too many lawsuits.  This does not speak well to this drug and it does not speak well to Johnson & Johnson and Bayer, who introduced Xarelto with so much pomp, circumstance and excitement that it might be a drug that could really change the quality of people’s lives.

What the MDL Means?

I always call an MDL a “sort of” class action.   All federally filed cases — which is the vast majority of these claim and virtually all of the Maryland claims — are consolidated under one federal judge in a single jurisdiction, Louisiana in this case.   When a lawsuit is filed, the lawyers have an opportunity to conduct discovery where both sides get a chance to learn about the case.  In the Xarelto lawsuits, there are some facts common to all of these claims.  The biggest issue is going to be what Bayer and J&J knew or should have known about the bleeding risks associated with Xarelto.

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Pre-impact fright and conscious pain and suffering in Maryland

Pre-impact fright and conscious pain and suffering in Maryland death cases

Many years ago, a jury awarded my partner Laura Zois’ client $4 million in a survival action claim.  The sole evidence — the SOLE evidence — presented to the jury was that the decedent said “Oh s—!” before impact which caused his immediate death.  Since that case, I have had a very aggressive view when it comes to pushing these claims.  Because that case and other cases I have seen and tried show that juries take the most remote fear of grave harm or death as serious as they do any conscious pain and suffering.   I think too many plaintiffs’ attorneys in Maryland are too quick to accept the premise that the victim’s estate cannot make a pre-impact fright or conscious pain and suffering claim.   This post is about Maryland law in both pre-impact freight and conscious pain and suffering cases and why I think this helps the family’s victim recover great damages in wrongful death and survival action claims in Maryland.

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judge2The Maryland Court of Special Appeals handed down an interesting opinion in Asphalt and Concrete Services v. Perry, reversing a half million dollar verdict.  This case is a cautionary tale for lawyers who want to get every possible thing they can in to make the defendant look bad.  I understand the urge, believe me. But sometimes you are just asking for an appeal that is going to get your case reversed.  This is an opinion every Maryland personal injury lawyer — on both sides of the aisle — should read and keep in the back of their minds.   This case also has some good law and bad law for plaintiffs’ lawyers that is worth knowing.

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judge2Last month in a medical malpractice case in Milwaukee, a judge did something pretty amazing.  Here is the setup.  A woman has both her arms and legs amputated as a result of a Strep A infection and the treatment she received for septic shock, resulting in compromised blood flow.  This is, no question, a stunningly awful tragedy.   A jury believed that medical malpractice caused these injuries and awarded $15.75 million in pain and suffering damages and $9 million economic damages.   But Wisconsin has a $750,000 cap on non-economic damages that the trial judge in this case believed was constitutionally sound.   So that’s that, right?
In a 21-page decision, Judge Jeffery Conen explained that his ruling does not strike down Wisconsin’s $750,000 cap on non-economic awards:

Although the cap may be constitutional as applied to medical malpractice victims as a whole, there is no rational justification for depriving Mrs. Mayo, who is in her mid-fifties, limbless, and largely immobile, and Mr. Mayo of the award the jury decided was appropriate to compensate them for their injuries…”

It is unreasonable to require Mrs. Mayo and her husband, whose lives have been so drastically altered, to bear the brunt of the legislature’s intended tort reform…. there is no rational basis [for slashing the award] in the hopes of marginally improving health care in Wisconsin.

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