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This blog post summarizes Mattison v. Gelber, a new Maryland Court of Appeals opinion in a medical malpractice case with a unique issue with respect to whether there was an entry of final judgment without an award of costs. You can go to the jump at the bottom of the post. I take the dog for a short walk in the introduction.

When I started practicing law, one of the first cases that I was given was a plaintiff’s legal malpractice case. Except for a subrogation case – which really does not count as a plaintiff’s case – it was the only plaintiff’s case that I had in my first four years as a lawyer. Now, it has been ten years since I was on the other side of the books

Anyway, in the malpractice case, the lawyer blew the time for filing a post-verdict appeal. He blew in the most bizarre way possible: he filed his Notice of Appeal too early before final judgment had been entered.

The idea of committing legal malpractice for doing something too early stuck with me. I have been paranoid to this day about deadlines in general but, in particular, post-judgment motions. In Mattison v. Gelber, the court dealt with facts that validate my paranoia.

This case started, as many malpractice claims do, with a battle over venue. Plaintiff filed in Prince George’s County against two doctors. There is not a medical malpractice attorney in Maryland who would not prefer Prince George’s County to anywhere else (possible exception: Baltimore City). But the malpractice happened in Howard County, one of the toughest places in Maryland to try a malpractice case. The Prince George’s County Circuit Court transferred the case, it did what it likes to do if there is a venue of issue: kick it out of their court.

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In March, I wrote a post about failed efforts in Maryland to require DWI offenders to install an ignition interlock system in their vehicles. Specifically, the bill before the legislature this year would have required people convicted of alcohol related offenses to only drive cars equipped with an ignition interlock system for some period of time. Simple premise: cars can’t start if you are not sober. My first thought is who would be opposed to this. It just makes too much sense.

Reading the Maryland State Bar Association Legislative Preview today, I found out something interesting I didn’t know: this bill passed the Maryland Senate 44-0 before getting stalled in the house judiciary committee. Okay, so not one person in the Maryland Senate thinks it is a bad idea but we can’t even get it to a vote in the House of Delegates?

I think the people of Maryland would be very depressed to see how the sausage is made.

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals decided on Thompson v. State Farm, a bad faith claim against State Farm that arose out of a car accident in Millersville, Maryland in Anne Arundel County. At issue is a common battleground in Maryland car accident cases: venue. A regular issue that is usually, but not always, decided in favor of however the trial judge sees

State Farm won the case and the CSA sided with the trial judge. This was, however, anything but a garden variety venue case. This case involved an appeal of a Maryland Insurance Administration finding that State Farm had not committed bad faith which made the venue issue that much more complex. As I talk about below, the court gets into the two bad faith statutes and begins what I don’t suspect will be the first appellate effort to sort through them.

Plaintiff’s lawyer was the well respected Debbie Potter, from the Jaklitsch Law Group. Debbie was doing what good accident lawyers do, trying to get venue in a favorable jurisdiction.

Her argument was that venue was proper in Baltimore City because State Farm does business in Baltimore City and State Farm could not point to anyone who would be inconvenienced by deferring to the Plaintiff’s choice of venue. (Liability for the car accident was not in dispute so, arguably, the location of the accident or the domicile of the at-fault driver should not enter into the calculus.)

In fact, for any bad faith case against State Farm any State Farm witnesses would likely be coming from Owings Mills (where State Farm houses its adjusters). Obviously, the argument goes, Annapolis is further from Owings Mills than Baltimore City. Continue reading

A lot of meritorious lawsuits were filed last week. Yet this morning my Google Reader quickly pointed me to two that seem to embody the definition of a frivolous lawsuit:

  • Walter Olson on Overlawyered reports on a lawsuit in Canada where the Plaintiff is suing after she jumped out of a car while she was intoxicated. As I wrote a comment on the Overlawyered post, I cannot imagine a scenario where this is a legitimate claim. I’m all in favor of lawsuits when the victims are innocent.


    What I do when I see lawsuits like this.

I’ll admit to being a sucker for kind words:law books

I am in CA and I wanted to thank you for your site. I am an innocent victim up against a very ruthless old attorney who has already forced me to bankruptcy and is trying to take my home for his retirement. He is partnered with an incredibly dishonest client and overwhelmed my attorney for 5 years with process, motions, etc… I am now pro se and working diligently to keep up with him, and your site gave me some great ideas. I applaud you for putting your work on your site, and I sure wish you guys were in California. I am impressed with the quality and ideals which your firm obviously believes in. I wish I could have been your client.

I often hear from lawyers I consider to be quite experienced who tell me they repeatedly use our website as a tool in their law practices. Some insurance companies have even given us naming rights, calling certain motions “Miller & Zois” motions because they are widely taken from our site and filed in other cases.

I’ve complained before about medical malpractice reform advocates who hold the Congressional Budget Office up as the apex of neutrality and wisdom in one context, but ignore its findings about the insignificant costs of defensive medicine. Charles Krauthammer managed to do this within the same editorial in the Washington Post on Friday.

In an unrelated story, Charles Krauthammer is a doctor.

The total cost of medical litigation and malpractice insurance premiums has fallen to an all-time low according to a new Public Citizen report.

Medical malpractice litigation’s share of overall health care costs has fallen to less than 0.6 percent. This incredibly low number is misleading high: it includes insurance companies’ overhead and profit and the cost of hiring malpractice lawyers to defend these claims. Actual medical malpractice payments – money that goes in the hands of the victims and, yes, their malpractice lawyers, have fallen to less than 0.2 percent of all health costs – the lowest level on record.

Here is the most amazing malpractice statistic I’ve heard in a while: between three and seven Americans die from medical errors for every one who receives a payment for a malpractice claim. To be fair, notwithstanding the oft-cited IOM report, there is no real way to know just how many deaths are caused by medical errors, just as there is no verifiable way to ascertain the cost of defensive medicine. But let’s say it is not 7 to 1 but 1 to 1. Given that only a small minority of medical malpractice claims are wrongful death cases, it is a pretty incredible statistic that underscores the fact that most medical malpractice that causes serious injury or death in this country goes unchallenged by anyone.

Picture of Prince George's County Court House

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The Washington Post reports that a Prince George’s County jury awarded $5,000 to a WJLA-TV (Channel 7 in Washington, D.C.) reporter, stemming from an incident where P.G. County police officers detained her briefly at gunpoint, as well as used excessive force, nearly four years ago. While the jury found that excessive force was used by Prince George’s County police, the jury of six men and two women also found that the county officers acted appropriately in conducting a “high-risk” stop of the reporter, who was following the Prince George’s County’s chief administrative officer investigating abuse of power allegations.

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