Articles Posted in Maryland Courts

Two weeks ago in Esteppe v. Balt. City Police Dept., (No. 47, Sept. Term 2020) (Sept. 1, 2021) the Maryland Court of Appeals held that a police department was not responsible for a judgment against a corrupt police detective simply because his unlawful arrest was done for personal reasons and, thus, outside the scope of his employment.

Summary of Esteppe v. Baltimore City Police

David Esteppe, a resident of Baltimore City, was going through a bad breakup back in 2012. In an effort to get back at Mr. Esteppe, his jilted ex-girlfriend enlisted the help of her childhood friend Adam Lewellen who was a Baltimore City Police Detective. To appease the ex-girlfriend, Detective Lewellen committed perjury to obtain a bogus warrant to search Mr. Esteppe’s house and pursued a false criminal prosecution of Mr. Esteppe.

How much money can you get for pain and suffering when someone negligently or intentionally kills your dog?   Is it $1.25 million, which is what a jury awarded, or $7,500?

In Anne Arundel County v. Reeves, No. 68 Sept. Term, 2019 (Md. June 7, 2021) the Court of Appeals weighed in on a sad case in which a police officer pointlessly shot and killed a beloved family dog in the front yard of its owners’ house. The dog’s family sued the police officer and the circuit court jury found that the officer was grossly negligent and awarded $1.25 million in damages. The COA vacated that verdict and held that under the applicable statute, pain & suffering damages for the tortious injury of a pet are not allowed. The most the family could recover for the killing of their dog was $7,500 in compensatory damages.

Facts of Anne Arundel County v. Reeves

As courts around the country struggle to get back to the business of hearing and deciding cases, many states have recently adopted plans to have virtual jury trials. This raises the possibility that Maryland might follow suit and adopt its own plan for virtual jury trials. In this post, we will speculate on the likelihood of Maryland adopting virtual jury service for civil trials.

COVID-19 Impact on the Maryland Judiciary

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted and forcibly changed almost every level of government administration and services in Maryland and around the country. This seismic disturbance has had a disproportionately harsh impact on civil court proceedings.

When a litigation settlement offer is “still on the table,” what exactly does that mean and how long does an offer last on “the table” before it expires?

In Moore v. Donegal Mutual Ins. Co. (No. 788) the Maryland Court of Special Appeals (COSA) considers these ponderous questions about the shelf life of settlement offers “on the table.” The COSA held that whether an on-the-table settlement offer had expired after 2 hours and could no longer be accepted was a question of fact for a jury.

States are split on whether tort liability may be imposed on local governments for police brutality/excessive force/misconduct cases.  Some states permit the imposition of tort liability for their police officers’ intentional actions while on the job.   Some refuse to impose tort liability, arguing that such conduct is not within the scope of employment.  The Maryland Court of Appeals issued a new opinion that stakes out Maryland’s position on this issue with newfound clarity.

At issue in Baltimore City Police Dept. v. Potts, 468 Md. 265 (2020) was criminal police misconduct by Baltimore City police officers could be considered actions within the scope of their employment under the Local Government Tort Claims Act (“LGTCA”).  The misconduct here was next level.  Stopping suspects without probable cause, assaulting them, and planting handguns on suspects to give them grounds for arrest.

Maryland’s Court of Appeals held this police misconduct was within the scope of the officer’s employment because they were done in furtherance of police business and incidental to authorized police conduct. Therefore, the Police Department is liable under the LGTCA.

In its final decision of the Term, Maryland’s Court of Appeals gave us an (arguably) game-changing decision Rochkind v. Stevenson. The court announced that it was discarding the old Frye-Reed rule and formally adopting the Daubert test for the admissibility of expert testimony.  We all knew we would get here one day. And here we finally are.

Factual Background of Rochkind v. Stevenson

The case that gave rise to this appellate decision began back in 2011 when the plaintiff brought a lead paint case against her former landlord, Stanley Rochkind.  The Rochkind name has been ubiquitous in the lead paint world, having been the defendant in hundreds of claims over the last 25 years that were covered by multiple insurers.

Just before the coronavirus shut the world down, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals issued an interesting unreported opinion in a premises liability case in Montogmery Counrty that looks at voir dire in Maryland, an issue that has always interested me in Smith v. Rollins Real Estate.  

Case Facts

The case itself is pretty boring. It is slip and fall on the way to a restaurant case.  A woman gets dropped off at the door.  She rolls her foot getting out and blames a separation in the sidewalk.  It is not a case I would ever take.

Obviously, emails are hearsay evidence that are admissible at trial.  Donati v. State is a criminal case that teaches us a lesson in how to get an email into evidence at trial.

Emails are admissible in court.  You just have to know what the law requires to admit emails into evidence.  In medical malpractice and product liability cases, this is something you often need to do. This case shows us how to present an email at trial and get it into evidence.

The Facts of Donati v. State

If I will have to read a criminal case, I want some whacked-out facts to keep me interested.  This case delivers.  And this example helps explain how to get emails authenticated and in evidence. 

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Defense lawyers are often obsessed with getting the victim’s mental health records.  They rarely bear the juicy fruit they seek.  But this does not deter them.

In St. Luke Institute Inc. v. Jones (No. 62, Sept. Term 2019), the Maryland Court of Appeals laid out a step-by-step roadmap for when and how litigants can get confidential mental health records in civil discovery.

The process for getting confidential mental health records in civil discovery are now as follows:

Getting records and bills from medical providers is a lot harder than it should be. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals has a new opinion that makes the collection of records even harder.   Yes, thankfully, it is an unreported opinion.  But it is still a message that health care providers can kick the can down the road on medical records requests with impunity.

The sad part is I agree with the opinion. It was the right call.  For sure.  But it is not helpful for medical malpractice and personal injury lawyers trying to collect medical records.

What Is the Maryland Record Collection Statute?

Besides begging and pleading, the only sword lawyers have in collecting medical records is § 4-309(a) of the Health-General Article of the Maryland Code. This statute requires health care providers to produce the records with a HIPAA authorization. This statute provides that: If a health care provider knowingly refuses to disclose a medical record within a reasonable time but no more than 21 working days after the date a person in interest requests the disclosure, the health care provider is liable for actual damages.

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