New Ad Damnum Law in Maryland

Everyone has their soapbox issues where they maintain the rest of the world is crazy and sanity would be restored if everyone would just listen to us. I have mine, you have yours. Usually, at least for me, few others are paying attention and the world continues to be the world.

One of these issues for me is ad damnum clauses. Here is what happens time and time again: (1) a personal injury lawyer in Maryland file lawsuits and meaninglessly ask for a zillion dollars,(2) the Baltimore Sun and the Maryland Daily Record dutifully report the amount sought as though it actually lawmatters, (3) the people of Maryland roll their eyes about a civil justice system that has run amok, (4) these people become jurors one day and walk in with said eyes still rolled.

The problem is two-fold. First, attorneys sometimes file for ridiculous amounts to draw attention to ourselves. Yes, that is a self-inflicted wound, but it does not lesson the pain for the rest of us.

But the other problem is that we have a duty to our client not to, you know, commit legal malpractice. I have long maintained that it is malpractice not to ask in the ad damnum clause for more than your client could conceivably recover because if you score with the jury more than you expected and you go over the ad damnum clause, you have two problems. First, the judge might refuse your motion to amend the complaint to comport with the verdict. But the even bigger problem is that you have loaded the gun for plaintiff’s remitter motion. “They didn’t even ask for this much,” they will surely whine in the motion.

I’ve buried the lead to this story. Sorry. The good news is that under new Maryland Rule 2-305 that will be effective in January, plaintiffs’ lawyer are no longer even allowed – as I read the rule – to state a specific amount if the damages sought exceed $75,000. Instead the complaint should include the general statement that the amount the plaintiff seeks is more than $75,000.

Why $75,000? That stumped me for a second. But in some smaller personal injury cases, plaintiffs will sue for less than $75,000 to defeat federal jurisdiction because the amount in controversy must exceed $75,000 under 28 U.S.C. §1332(a).

Anyway, this is a small but important step in giving the public – and future jurors – a more honest look at our civil justice system in Maryland. You can find the new Maryland Rule here (scroll down to page 8)

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  • Very helpful. Thanks

  • Legle Eagle

    In New York, we have not been allowed to ask for a specific amount in medmal cases for a long time. More recently, this was extended to all PI cases. The ad damnum clause simply states: “Plaintiff is entitled to damages exceeding the jurisdictional limit of all lower courts.” The problem is that many attorneys still sue for a gazillion dollars. The defense must then make a motion to complain, and the court may (or may not) direct that the complaint be amended to strike that language with no other penalty to the plaintiff or his attorney. Good system! In New York this rule was passed because of the shock many lay defendants would get upon reading the served papers. For example, two cars collide causing mostly property damage and some personal injury. An insured has a 100-300 policy, but then gets hit with a lawsuit for $5,000,000. The legislature did not think it was proper to claim such an amount on a typical $20-$50K case.

  • Mark Morrision

    Isn’t the whole claiming money thing kind of pointless anyway? If the purpose is to serve notice and the notice is useless, what is the purpose?

  • Calling a Spade a Spade

    Can’t we also admit this is a trial lawyer created gimmick to make you guys look less greedy? Let’s just be honest for a minute, can we?

  • Ron Miller

    I appreciate the temptation for tort reform minded folks to spin it that way. I really do. But you have to keep in mind that defense lawyers and insurance companies support this as well.

  • George Blumenthal

    I have actually represented a client who failed to recover a substantial amount because the attorneys’ ad damnum was less than the verdict and their request to amend was not timely made. Never liked our system of pleading for the reasons you cite.

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