Articles Posted in Wrongful Death Claims

This post is about calculating wrongful death settlement compensation payouts in Maryland. Our lawyers have handled scores of wrongful death malpractice lawsuits in Maryland and have developed a strong sense for what settlement amounts and jury payouts you can expect if you have a claim.

Wrongful Death Malpractice Settlement Amounts

What is the average settlement amount for wrongful death medical malpractice cases in Maryland and the District of Columbia? 

The untimely death of a family member or someone you love can be devastating, both emotionally and economically. This type of loss can be even harder to accept when it was caused by someone else’s negligence. Fortunately, our civil legal system gives you the ability to do something about this by filing a wrongful death lawsuit.

The Maryland wrongful death lawyers at Miller & Zois help the survivors hold people accountable for the death of their family member and get financial compensation for their loss. Wrongful death lawsuits are often misunderstood, and our office gets a lot of questions about this topic. In this post, we will go over three key facts that you need to know about Maryland wrongful death lawsuits.

Definition of “Wrongful Death” Under Maryland Law

I stumbled on an interesting Chicago Law Review article today by Eric Posner (Judge Richard Posner’s son) and Cass Sunstein (now with the Obama administration). I like Sunstein’s views on several issues, including animal rights.

I talk about this article in this post and then I jump on a tangent about the differences in wrongful death settlement amounts for women.

Calculating Wrongful Death Settlements

The subject article is how the legal system assigns money damages to the loss of human life in wrongful death cases with an eye towards creating greater uniformity. The authors approach this question like solving a mathematical equation. For grief, the authors conclude that $500,000 is a good starting place, suggesting this formula as the paradigm to determine compensation in wrongful death cases:wrongful death amount

To derive a willingness to pay (WTP) to avoid grief from a spouse’s death, one would need to (1) determine the average length of time that the grief persists (for example, until remarriage); (2) find an equivalent happiness difference in an area of life that has been reliably monetized (for example, willingness to pay to avoid disease or depression); (3) convert this difference into annual units; and (4) multiply (1) by (3).

I understand the goal of uniformity and I even understand the formula. The problem is homogenizing the equation for everyone. Values vary because juries vary but also because facts vary wildly from case to case. The formula is artificially low because it uses how much you will spend to avoid a loss to determine how you value the loss. For example, if you will pay $5 to avoid a 1/100,000 risk of death to your spouse, then the loss of your spouse is worth $500,000. Continue reading

baltimore wrongful deathIn Maryland, a wrongful death lawsuit can be brought by a family member of someone who was negligently killed.  The wrongful death lawyers at Miller & Zois, LLC have over 100 years of combined experience handling wrongful death claims in Baltimore where our law offices are based.

Our firm also covers all of Maryland and travels and tries cases in every county in our state. We have a history of success in these cases and a willingness to fight to the end to get you the compensation that you deserve for your loss.

Call my law firm today at 800-553-8082 or get a free, no-obligation online consultation.

Maximizing the Amount of Compensation

When you lost someone you love, there is no about of money that can get you what you really want  — your loved one back.  The only thing the legal system can do is give you money to compensate you for your loss.  At Miller & Zois, our mission is to get you as much money as possible for your wrongful death case in a settlement or a verdict.  Our goal is not to get you a lot of money, not to do the best we can.  No. Our goal is to leverage the law and the facts to get you as much money as humanly possible.

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appellate court opinionIn Kassem v. Gaddy, the Michigan Court of Appeals was faced with a simple question: can you scare a man to death?

Facts of Kassem

This is an odd case.  An 85-year-old man crashed into the back of a tractor trailer.   It sounds like the man was at fault for the accident.  But the police accident reconstructionist placed the blame on the truck driver.

Why?  The expert found that the trucker did not place his trailer’s outer bumper in the “down” position.   So in the up position, a trailing driver on a wet, chilly night could not see any taillights until it was too late.

It was not a serious accident.  There was no evidence of physical injuries.  But the elderly man died of a cardiac arrhythmia that the medical examiner concluded, without looking at the body, was from coronary artery disease.  Presumably, he based this on the fact that the man was 85.

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The first thing they do in a communist Nazi country is destroy the jury system. Why do they want to destroy the jury system? Because you represent the line between tyranny and democracy, right and wrong. You have the power. . . You have more power today than the President of the United States. . . . But the question is, will you have courage today? Do you have the God given courage. . . .

This is a line from a closing statement in a wrongful death medical malpractice case in Mississippi. Setting aside that the Nazis were not communists but bitter enemies of communism, this is just unbelievably over-the-top, right? This line, Plaintiff’s closing statement, a jury instruction stating that an element of the wrongful death claim was the “loss of the value of life,” led the Mississippi Supreme Court to reverse a $1 million jury verdict in a wrongful death case.reversed wrongful death verdict

This case is a classic “you could have saved her if you had taken the case more seriously in the ER” case. It happens every day in this country. Here, the woman presented at the emergency room with a lot of problems: confusion, decreased appetite, tremors, renal disease, respiratory failure, and pneumonia. They did not take her to intensive care but gave her antibiotics, and the woman went into cardiopulmonary arrest. The opinion does not go into the merits of the case, but you can be sure the doctor’s attorney contested both negligence and causation.

A jury found the doctor negligent and awarded $1 million. The doctor appealed, arguing that the plaintiff’s malpractice attorney made improper comments to the jury, including that the damages should include, “the value of a human life.” Plaintiff’s counsel was echoing the jury instruction that the jury may consider the “value of life” of the deceased when awarding damages.

The complete thing was a mess. It was not a great instruction and maybe a little misleading. Defense counsel also did not properly object to the instruction, which would have given the court a chance to cure the problem or allow the plaintiff’s lawyer to withdraw the request. Continue reading

When I read a newspaper article, I assume it is true. Why I do this defies logic and reason.

wrongful death verdict

Prince George’s County Circuit Courthouse

A little paper near my home with a limited budget wrote an article on a pedestrian accident wrongful death case in Prince George’s County. You probably never heard of the paper. It is called the Washington Post.  Owned by up and comer Jeff Bezos. (I think this whippersnapper owns another company, too.)

I’ve written a good bit about use plaintiffs’ in Maryland wrongful death cases and the hornets’ nest that lawyers can find themselves in when they do not have all the potential wrongful death beneficiaries reading off the same sheet of music before filing suit.

The Maryland Court of Appeals has rewritten the rules when filing wrongful death claims involving notice to use plaintiffs that give attorneys a clearer path. It also addresses adult children’s claims for solatium damages.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court stuck down a $5 million verdict in an Ethicon endocutter design defect case last week, finding that the trial court was not restricted to considering only one use of the device and that it correctly applied a risk-utility analysis. The case talks about product liability risk-utility analysis in the Restatement (Third) of Torts. You can read the court’s opinion here.

liability design defect claims

Plaintiff, a 40-year-old mother, underwent gastric bypass surgery (Technically, she is the plaintiff’s decedent. I use “plaintiff” because of my refusal to use the plaintiff’s names on this blog, a stance that sometimes makes recitation of the facts awkward in wrongful death cases.). To cut and resection the plaintiff’s stomach, her doctors used an ETS-Flex45 Articulating Endoscopic Linear Cutter – called an “endocutter” – made by Johnson & Johnson, subsidiary Ethicon Endo-Surgery (Let’s say charitably that both companies are frequent flyer product liability defendants.). The device was designed for use in less-invasive endoscopic surgery. It also was marketed for use in traditional “open” surgery in which a large incision is used to view internal organs.

After complications, Plaintiff’s doctors conducted a second surgery and discovered that staples were absent in two small sections and attributed the problem to “mechanical staple failure.” Sadly, the Plaintiff’s stomach contents had leaked into her abdominal cavity, causing sepsis, and her eventual death.

Plaintiff’s Estate filed a wrongful death suit contending that the endocutter was unreasonably dangerous because it was not equipped with a means to either measure the thickness of the tissue being stapled or lock the device if the tissue thickness was incorrect. Plaintiff’s Estate contended that had the endocutter been designed with this capability, it would have prevented the staple line failure that caused Plaintiff’s death.

An Allegheny County, Pennsylvania jury agreed, finding the endocutter’s defective design caused the woman’s wrongful death and awarded $ 5 million, finding that the endocutter was defectively designed.

The big issue in the case was the application of the risk/utility analysis required in a products liability action to determine whether a product is unreasonably dangerous. Here, the endocutter at issue was marketed for multiple recognized uses, but the injury to the plaintiff was caused by only one of those uses. So the question is whether the trial court’s risk-utility analysis should be limited to the use that caused the plaintiff injury or should it consider all the uses of the product. Continue reading

There is a bill in the Maryland General Assembly that would allow punitive damages against drunk drivers who caused “injury or wrongful death while operating a motor vehicle.” Punitive damages would be available against drunk drivers: (1) With a blood alcohol concentration of over .15; or (2) With a blood alcohol concentration of over .08, and was driving on a suspended or revoked license or had entered a plea of nolo contendere or received probation before judgment within the last 5 years.

The Maryland Chamber of Commerce opposes this bill. Why? I really think it is because the Maryland Chamber is run by the true believers who care about some issue far more strongly than furthering the interests of Maryland businesses. That mission includes a vehement opposition to anything their gut tells them that Maryland personal injury lawyers might support. Seriously. If Maryland Association for Justice put out a statement that Jeremy Lin should be the focal point of the Knicks’ office even when Carmelo Anthony returns, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce would immediately put out a statement renouncing drunk drivers punitive damagesLin (citing the fact that Carmelo is from Baltimore or something). It is just silly.

(Minority Report: their opposition makes perfect sense. They are worried about the slippery slope of punitive damages affecting Maryland businesses and they are two steps ahead in the chess match. Personally, I don’t give them that much credit.)

So let me set the Chamber’s mind at ease. Economically, plaintiffs’ attorneys would get no real benefit from punitive damages in drunk driving injury and death cases. Why? Because punitive damages are not covered by insurance. Which means the drunks have to come up with the cash themselves. My firm has collected $0.00 from people individually over the last ten years. Collecting money from people individually is just very difficult. In almost every case, the juice is not worth the squeeze unless the defendant goes by the name John Rockefeller. Lawyers handling traffic collision cases will not see their revenues rise half of a percent by getting drunks to pony up punitive damages. Continue reading

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