Articles Posted in Featured Lawsuits

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complaintThere are a variety of motivations that impact the victim’s decision to settle or go to trial. It is worth underscoring: it is the victim’s decision. It is not a decision for the attorneys or the family. The victim has to choose the path that is best for them.  There are certainly some Maryland injury attorneys who do not see it that way.  It really is tempting — I’ve felt it — to think you know what is best for your client.  I’ve settled cases where I was convinced the offer would double in a matter of weeks.  But as a lawyer, your job really is to give your client the information to make an informed choice.

Here are the three key factors victims need to consider: risk, time, and emotional strain.

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scales2Our Memorial Day weekend got a good kickoff with a $5.2 million verdict in Baltimore City in a emergency room misdiagnosis medical malpractice case.

I can’t start out the facts of this case without pointing out how amazing our client and his family were and are.  Just a great loyal family.  They came in and out of the courtroom during the two week trial, including  six of his seven siblings.   His elderly parents were there for the closing too, along with one of his nieces.    I have four small kids.  When they are older, I want us to all be as close as that family.   They are great people that love each other and they love God.  Which means they have 95% of life covered when they wake up in the morning.

Our client was an armed security guard at a federal building.  He was walking over a barrier that was lying down in the ground when a co-worker activated the barrier. He was hoisted up into the air, twisting his knee and trapping him in the barrier.  He dislocated his knee, tearing almost every ligament and tendon.   His knee reduced before he arrived at the emergency room.  His ER visit was only about 2 hours long where he had a series of X-rays as the only intervention.  While he was there, the PA suspected a knee dislocation, but never told her supervising doctor.   He was discharged with a knee sprain diagnosis.   Two days later he returned to ER with no pulses in his foot, and ended up with an above the knee amputation.

The physician’s assistant and the ER doctor breached the standard of care by failing to rule out an injury to his popliteal artery.  One in three knee dislocations result in an injury to this artery.  If you don’t catch the injury within the 6-8 hour window, you have a 90% amputation rate.   If they had done a vascular assessment, they would have easily discovered the injury.  He could have been re-vascularized and his leg would have survived.   The bad guys claimed that since he had normal pulses in his leg throughout the 2 hours he was there and they had no reason to believe that he injured his artery.  They also tried to defend the case on the theory that he did not give an adequate history for them to have suspected a knee dislocation.  The physician’s assistant said that the knee dislocation was only in her differential diagnosis and that she ruled it out after the X-rays came back normal (even though you cannot rule out a dislocation that reduced simply by looking at the X-rays).   There was also a goofy causation argument that the injury to his artery actually occurred after he was discharged.  That might work in some cases when the jury is eager to go down an Oliver Stone path.  But it was the wrong path with this client.

Our client is an amazing guy.  He returned to work as an armed security officer after almost two years of rehab and training to get him back in shape for the job.  He is very independent and considers himself “lucky” to have survived this.  He refuses to call or consider himself disabled or handicapped.  He was a difficult witness to pull pain and suffering details out of because of his refusal to let this injury defeat him (but the day-in-the-life video helped).  He will not use handicap parking spaces and he never complains.  He was extremely athletic before the injury and was an avid swimmer.   He has only been to the pool four times since this incident occurred, since he is afraid of the wet surfaces.

Our verdict was $5.2 million:

  • $216,000 past medical bills
  • $601,000 for further prosthesis
  • $667,000 for further lost wages (he could no longer work his second job)
  • $35,000 in lost household services
  • $3,700,000 in pain and suffering damages

Laura Zois and Rod Gaston tried the case.  Samantha Harbeson did the PowerPoint presentations and just kept the whole trial together as she always does.

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I was in Florida after Christmas and completely missed the Maryland Court of Special Appeals opinion in Ayala v. Lee, a truck collision case in Anne Arundel County where the plaintiffs were two undocumented aliens who were rear ended near Annapolis.

After crossing the Bay Bridge, the driver of the plaintiffs’ vehicle stopped the truck and pulled clearly onto the shoulder on Route 50 to fix a problem with the windshield.  They put half the vehicle in the grass, off the shoulder.  The driver also activated the  emergency flashers.  In other words, they were doing exactly what they should have done under the circumstances.  After getting the wipers fixed, their truck was rear-ended by another truck.  The driver who was with the Plaintiffs was killed and the Plaintiffs themselves were badly injured.

This is a slam dunk on liability, right?  Somehow it goes to the jury on the question of liability. Continue reading →

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Malpractice case dismissed

Maryland appellate court kicks malpractice case

Before the holidays, the Court of Special Appeals issued a new opinion dealing with medical malpractice actions.  The case, Puppolo, v. Adventist Healthace, Inc., et al., is a perfect example of how difficult it can be to litigate a medical malpractice claim when you don’t understand and/or abide by the procedural and statutory “rules” Maryland has in place.  (You can read the case here.)  I know that slogging through statutes can be really tedious and boring, but when it comes to med mal, there are no excuses.  You’ve just gotta do it.  Maybe this cautionary tale case will shed some light… Continue reading →

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gavel court houseThe Maryland Court of Appeals decided Espina v. Prince George’s County  last week.  The opinion is not a good one if you care about justice.  

I have written here two times how awful governmental immunities are.   But I think the topic is inexhaustible, like Doris Kearns Goodwin digging even deeper into Lincoln’s life.  The unfairness of protecting government when they hurt someone is just plain wrong.  In 2014, they just don’t make any sense. Virtually everyone agrees they lead to grave injustice.  Yet no one really cares. Continue reading →

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California insurance law is far more generous than ours in Maryland

I’m glad to say that our firm has had a number of verdicts in recent years that exceeded the insurance policy of the at-fault driver.   In almost all of these cases – there is one exception  – we made a demand for the insurance policy limits.    Why?  Because we knew they would not pay the policy limits and we were trying to set up our bad faith case after an excess verdict.

Insurance companies have a duty to their insured try to settle a case within policy limits if it is reasonable to do so.  In every Maryland case we have had, the “reasonable to do so” never gets flushed out because the insurance company does the right thing and pays the policy.
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Can you make a UM claim against a taxi?

Question: I am a New Jersey resident who was in a car accident taking a cab back to BWI airport.  The taxi cab driver was probably speeding the accident was not his fault – someone just pulled out on us.  I saw the whole thing.  The driver who caused this mess had insurance with Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund which I’m told will have little insurance coverage.  The taxi cab company told me they have no uninsured motorist insurance.  Is this actually true?  Someone told me that every car has uninsured motorist coverage and that the coverage limits are the same as the liability limits.   Is this true?

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How much does Allstate pay outside counsel?

The answer in Maryland appears to be around $135 an hour for a senior lawyer.

Here’s how I know. One of my colleagues here was in court yesterday and saw a motions hearing.  This issue was unbelievably petty. Plaintiff’s lawyer failed to show for a deposition because he overslept, forgot, or something. Totally innocent.  He said he was sorry.  Allstate’s counsel – outside counsel, not in-house – wanted $500 in sanctions for having to appear at the deposition.  Why so petty?  I can’t tell you.  But I do know that while there are a lot of insurance defense lawyers that are wonderful people, it is fair to say that they blow past all other professions in the number of people per capita who would say, “I’ve enjoyed this dinner with you; now let’s go though this check line by line and figure out who owes what” after dinner with the neighbors.

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lawandreligionThree years ago when Reptile came out – the book that has revolutionized how many plaintiffs’ attorneys approach a tort case – I wrote what I thought was an interesting post about the use of religion at trial based on the research provided in the book.   The premise was that  the rules of Scripture are power rules that guide the thinking not only of the pious but  command authority as the “ultimate rules” for not only the faithful but the agnostic and even atheists.

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