Court Case Could Lead to Comparative Negligence Liability in Maryland

A September 17 Baltimore Sun article discusses a case being considered by the Maryland Court of Appeals that may undo the State’s longstanding common law contributory negligence liability standard and move the State to a comparative negligence (also sometimes called comparative fault) standard.  Such a move would likely increase the ability of a plaintiff to recover for injuries even where the plaintiff contributed to being injured.

As previously reported on Conduit Street, changing to a comparative negligence standard would increase the liability exposure of county governments and MACo has signed onto an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief urging the Court to uphold the contributory negligence standard.  The Maryland General Assembly has considered legislation to change the standard at various times over the last several decades but has always declined to do so.  From the Sun article:

The collapse of a soccer goal on a Howard County practice field has led the state’s highest court to reconsider more than 150 years of personal injury law, in a case that could significantly improve injured plaintiffs’ chances of winning payouts.  …

Maryland is one of only four states, plus the District of Columbia, that bar injured people from winning lawsuits if they had any role in an accident — even if a jury finds the defendant in their suit deserved a much greater share of the blame. Most other courts allow juries to assign responsibility to each party, and award damages accordingly.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Medical Association, which oppose changing that standard, warn of increased insurance rates, careless behavior and a spike in frivolous suits. Trial lawyers and others fighting for a reversal argue that Maryland should recognize that even people who are partially responsible for their injuries should have a chance to recover damages.

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