Maryland Courts Study Comparative Fault

A December 17 Gazette.net article details a request from Chief Judge Robert Bell to the Judiciary’s Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure to how other states treat comparative fault and whether the Maryland Courts could change Maryland from a contributory negligence state to a comparative fault state through adoption of a Rule, rather than by through a judicial case decision.  MACo has opposed the change in the past due to increased liability and litigation costs for counties.  Plaintiff and trial attorney organizations have generally supported the change.

Under a pure contributory negligence system, plaintiff is barred recovery if the actions of the plaintiff contributed to his or her litigated injuries.  However, under a comparative fault system, a plaintiff can recover an amount based on the percentage that the plaintiff contributed to his or her own damages or injuries. 

The committee, which is scheduled to meet Jan. 18, will look at any impacts in states and federal entities that switched from a system of contributory negligence to comparative fault. Bell also asked the Rules Committee whether the Court of Appeals could make the change by issuing a rule or only via judicial opinion.

“We ask them to do research all the time,” Bell said in a brief interview during which he downplayed his request. …

Business groups are expressing concern that Maryland’s top court could circumvent the legislature in changing a long-standing provision in the state’s tort law that they say will lead to more lawsuits and higher insurance costs.

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