Articles Posted in Featured Lawsuits

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Baltimore City settled a wrongful death and survival action by Freddie Gray’s family for $6.4 million.  The criminally unfair Maryland Local GovernmentBaltimore Police Tort Claim Act would have capped these claims at $400,000.  So Baltimore City settled for a whopping $6 million more than the maximum value of the case.   Said another way, the settlement was 16 times the cap for personal injury and wrongful death claims had this case taken the standard path and been heard by a Baltimore City jury.

High profile cases mold public perception in Baltimore and throughout Maryland about our civil justice system.  People form impressions on how well the system performs when placing a dollar amount on personal injury and wrongful death cases.

On some level, Freddie Gray is a Baltimore specific McDonald’s coffee case.  It has now been 24 years since Stella Liebeck spilled coffee on herself at a McDonald’s drive-through in New Mexico and that case continues to inform prospective jurors on how personal injury cases actually work.  Freddie Gray may leave a similar legacy in Baltimore.  What will that legacy be?  What misimpressions will juror carry into the jury box as a result of this case?  I believe there are unintended consequences to this settlement that will be felt for years.

I think these are the Freddy Gray takeaway messages:

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I can’t say I’m a fan of any car insurance companies in Maryland.  Some are worst than others.  Here are my top 5 worst auto insurance companies to deal with in personal injury cases.


GEICO has the largest market share in Maryland.  We see GEICO constantly. So that familiarity breeds contempt.

Why They Are AwfulGeico

GEICO makes the worst pre-suit offers of any of the big six insurance companies (State Farm, Allstate, Nationwide, USAA, Erie).  So there’s that.

GEICO’s new generation of adjusters are increasingly condescending, laughing at demands and other histrionics that are very grating. You would never see the old school GEICO adjusters who are almost invariably professional and likable, even when I disagree with them (I’m Facebook friends with GEICO adjusters who I used to fight with in the old days.)

GEICO almost always put more money on a case when suit has been filed.  By then,  the claim is switched over to a litigation adjuster who is more likely to be a seasoned adjuster who can really value the case.   So the original adjuster never has to put his or her tail between his legs and increase the offer they once thought was hysterical.  Instead, these pre-suit adjusters are already on the phone telling another attorney or victim how silly their claim is.  These neophyte adjusters are firmly ensconced in their bubble and are never forced to face reality.   Continue reading →

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Maryland personal injury lawyers are not permitted to say that they specialize in personal injury law.  This may soon change.Law Book

The Maryland Court of Appeals is considering amendments to Rule 7.4 of the Lawyers’ Rules of Professional Conduct that would permit a Maryland personal injury attorney — or any lawyer for that matter — who has been certified as a specialist in a particular area of law to hold themselves out to the public as a specialist.

What would the attorney’s qualifications be for specialization?  I think this may be the challenge that led the court to defer ruling on this issue, which they did last week.

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There are an unbelievable number of variables involved in arriving at a settlement value for a personal injury case.  Compensation offers varyMoney and gold Scale of Justice wildly because there are so many different factors that have different weights attached to them.

But assuming there is no issue about the amount of money available* to pay on the claim,  the single most reliable predict of settlement value is the type of injury.  There are two key factors to consider when looking at the type of injury.

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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 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 →