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Good Samaritan laws are intended to protect people from liability when they voluntarily assist others in emergencies.

Here is an example of how Good Samaritan laws work. Let’s say you’re driving to work and you witness a car accident. One of the vehicles flips over the driver is stuck and yelling for help. You pull over and run to help, but in extracting him from the car, you end up breaking his leg and causes other injuries. Under traditional tort law, you could be liable for the driver’s injuries. The rationale was that you have no duty to render aid. But if you helped, you assumed a duty of helping safely and reasonably.

It is a well-established rule that ordinarily, in the absence of some special relationship, no legal duty rests on a member of the public to render services to an injured person. So you can immorally but legally let someone you could help suffer and die.

I rarely write about legal issues that do not relate to personal injury cases.  But Maryland’s red flag law has gotten so much attention and there is SO MUCH incorrect information out there, I feel like writing a post about it. 

Reaction to the seemingly endless stream of mass shootings across the country has generated unprecedented political pressure for gun control laws. Last year, Maryland became one of a handful of states that responded to this pressure by enacting new laws aimed at curbing random gun violence.

Last September the Maryland legislature passed a new type of gun control law which is commonly known as a “red flag” law. Maryland’s red flag law was signed by Governor Hogan took effect on October 1, 2018. Maryland’s red flag law is one of the toughest in the nation and one of the most frequently invoked.

viable personal injury case

Why can’t you get a lawyer on the phone?

I picked up the phone yesterday from someone I knew did not have a personal injury case.  He sent us an online intake weeks ago and was now cycling back to us.  This means he has called almost every personal injury lawyer in Maryland but did not keep track of who he had contacted.

The reason he did not have a case was that he had a mass tort case in litigation that has long since ended AND he was past the statute of limitations.  I spoke to the guy because he never got a personal injury lawyer on the phone to explain to why no one would take his case.

Note: post was originally in 2012.  It has been updated in November 2018  to discuss a new martial privilege case, Sewell v. State, now pending before the Maryland Court of Appeals with a decision coming any day now.

I never write about marital privilege. But I have an interest in modern technology and how it will affect pre-trial discovery and admissibility of evidence. Which takes me to the  4th Circuit opinion U.S. v. Hamilton.

This case involves the bribery conviction of a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates who also served part-time as an administrator with the Newport News, Virginia public school system. Basically, the guy pushed for and got a salary from Old Dominion University for getting funding for a million-dollar program called Center for Teacher Quality and Education Leadership. (FACT: 89% of all “education centers” with titles as goofy and ambiguous as this one are hopelessly corrupt.)marital privilege emails

Anyway, a key piece of evidence in the takedown of this guy is an email that he writes to his wife about how he is trying to get this salary out of the deal which he writes from his public school computer. So the question is whether the marital privilege applies because he used his work email account.

For what I think are good reasons, communications between spouses have long been thought to implicate important privacy and confidentiality interests. This has led to a recognition of a marital privilege in both Maryland and federal law that makes communications between spouses presumptively confidential.

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Eighteen years ago, we decided that representing corporate defendants and billing by the hour was not for us, so we started our own law firm. We had a clear vision of what would bring us success: yellow page advertising. That was the vehicle for a personal injury law firm to get tons of new clients.  We assumed.

Yet there is a little known secret about yellow page advertising: in the 21st century, it does not work. Minor flaw. Not knowing this, we poured over a million dollars into yellow page advertising.

Every single year of our practice, we earned more in fees from cases referred from other lawyers than any other source. Our current yellow page budget is now zero.  We have a strong Internet and social media presence that helps us get new clients (and also new client referrals).  But that is not our best path to getting new cases.

The Supreme Court today Walker v. NCAA (formerly Christie v. NCAA) in a 7-2 decision found unconstitutional a federal law that prohibits sports betting on football, basketball, baseball, and other sports. This gives states the green light to legalize betting on sports.

Legalized sports gambling in Maryland may not be far away.  We came close to passing a law in the last session in anticipation of this ruling. Delaware and New Jersey may have sports gambling within the next few weeks.

You can read about this on ESPN or Sports Illustrated, too.  But I’m unimpressed with how they have explained the law.  I’m writing here for lawyers who want to understand the details of the ruling without reading the case or the briefs.

Donald Trump has the support of a broad swatch of people.   Many of his supporters have the viewpoint that the problem in this country is too many lawsuits.trump personal injury cases

Trump would not take this position.  He is, by any definition, a celebrity.  Many celebrities have a history of using lawsuit first recourse in settling disputes.

Yesterday, Trump threatened a lawsuit if Ted Cruz does not take a campaign ad down that is predominantly made up of Trump’s own words footage  in a 1999 interview saying he’s “very pro-choice.” Cruz has, with good reason, mocked the viability of such a claim, giving the sound bite that Trump has been bringing frivolous lawsuits his entire adult life.

Trump certainly has filed several unbelievable lawsuits.  Here are a few highlights:

  • He sued two brothers for using the Trump name, even though their last name was Trump.  Reportedly, these guys were worth over ten times what Trump is worth, but somehow they were using the name to piggyback off of his success.  The suit went nowhere.
  • He sued his ex-wife for $25 million for talking about their relationship despite a confidentiality agreement. He might have technically been on the right side of this.  But you get the point.
  • Bill Maher joked that he would pay Trump $5 million if he could prove that his father was not an orangutan. Trump produced his birth certificate and sued for $5 million when Maher did not pay.  This one has a real elementary school vibe to it, doesn’t it?  Trump eventually dropped the case.
  • He sued the Chicago Tribune for $500 million after the paper’s architecture critic wrote he thought the Chicago’s Sears Tower would remain its world’s tallest building title even though Trump has made a plan to build a taller building on the East River in Manhattan. Reportedly, Trump did not even hire an architect for the building.  A federal court judge dismissed the case, ruling that you cannot sue someone for their subjective opinions.

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Ted Cruz has made a lot of enemies.  I cannot remember a legitimate candidate for president who seemed to be as personally disliked as Ted Cruz. This quote in the Washington Post describes how ted cruz tort reformhe was viewed when he attended Princeton:  “You either didn’t know Ted Cruz, you hated him, or you were David Panton.”  That’s harsh.

What does this have to do with this post?  Nothing, really.  I just thought it was worth pointing out.

Cruz is very proud that he was on the front line in the tort reform battles, a point he will probably make in South Carolina – while I write this post.  He defended appellate challenges to the 2003 Texas law that allows Texas doctors to commit malpractice as often as they please with no limitations. He was an author of George W. Bush’s “Let’s turn a blind eye to our federalism platitudes and install nationwide tort reform.”

After these accomplishments, Cruz gave being a private lawyer a spin.  Even Cruz’ enemies who will now agree he is a fantastic appellate lawyer.   He did what you would expect him to do in private practice: help big companies fight each other and squash the little guy.  As a personal injury lawyer, Ted Cruz defended, on appeal, two mammoth plaintiffs’ verdicts in New Mexico that involved $110 million in damages between two plaintiffs.   Keep in mind this was after he passionately fought against personal injury victims in Texas and throughout the country.

Why would such a committed tort reformer agree to represent victims?  Cruz clarified that if he would get involved when “money had to be right.”

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Clearly, the new Republican tradition is to pay homage to Ronald Reagan whenever you have a segue to do so – and even when there’s not. Everyone has forgotten Iran-Contra and those Marines in Lebanon. Instead, we have focused on the fact that he presided over 8 years of relative peace and prosperity. Most people also agree he made a real contribution to our victory in the Cold War.

At a debate back for the RNC Chairmanship, Grover Norquist asked the candidates, “Who is your favorite Republican president?” Everyreagan tort reform one of the six candidates picked Reagan.

Poor Lincoln. Even Democrats look back on Reagan and point out – maybe correctly, I don’t know – that Reagan is not conservative enough to win the Republican nomination in 2016. (Of course, in 2018, the cult of Donald Trump has led to a devaluation of Reagan and his legacy.  But this is likely a very temporary revision.)

The Evidence

You have heard of Stella Liebeck and the McDonald’s coffee case. Yep, over 30 years later, that is still a thing. But before Stella, there was “the phone booth case” that Reagan raised in a 1986 speech:

A man was using a public telephone booth to place a call. An alleged drunk driver careened down the street, lost control of her car, and crashed into the phone booth. Now, it’s no surprise that the injured man sued. But you might be startled to hear whom he sued: the telephone company and associated firms.

All of this is true. People love to make a big deal about someone suing someone as a harbinger for chaos because the lawsuit is so unjust.  But all you need to file a lawsuit is 115 bucks (at least in Maryland).  People file utterly ridiculous lawsuits all the time.  In this case, the guy was paralyzed, and he brought suit and the phone company settled (for like $25,000 in a catastrophic injury case.)

I don’t know why insanity is imputed because some company does not have the guts to take a case to trial.  But everyone jumped on to the idea that there is great meaning to the court’s failure to rule for the defendant on its motion for summary judgment (edit: the trial judge granted the MSJ but the California Supreme Court flipped the order).   But I guess Reagan was pretty fired up about it in his speech, so that is why the legend lives on to this day that Reagan was pro-tort reform.

A Closer Look at Reagan and Tort Reform

I found on my Google +1 a post (update — Google +1 is dead) from someone who worked for Reagan, which looks at what he actually said about tort reform. Apparently, all of his years of public life, Reagan gave only one tort reform speech in his political career in which he specifically said the issue is one for individual states. He never followed up on this speech.

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dog breed homeowners insuranceMaryland made the right call by getting rid of the “one bite rule,” which created an assumption that dog owners know their dogs can bite.  In doing so, they effectively nixed a court ruling that said that Pit Bulls are inherently dangerous and imposed strict liability for owners and landlords.

At the end of the day though, insurance companies are most interested in these sorts of decisions, because they’re the ones paying out dog-bite claims.  And although the dog breeds may not be as big an issue for Maryland legislators anymore, your insurance company may still discriminate and charge you more based on the dog you have.

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