MACo and other local government representatives testified against two bills this week that would remove or weaken an important 180-day notice requirement for injury claims against local governments.
On February 27, MACo Executive Director Michael Sanderson was joined by representatives from Baltimore City, Harford County, Kent County, Prince George’s County and the Maryland Municipal League to testify in opposition to SB 689 before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. The bill would repeal the 180-day notice requirement for claims against local governments under the Local Government Tort Claims Act (LGTCA). Sanderson and the local government representatives discussed the difference between local governments and private entities and expressed concerns about the ability of local governments to have a fair chance to investigate the facts surrounding a potential claim. From MACo’s testimony on SB 689:
The purpose of the LGTCA’s 180-day notice provision is to allow local governments to investigate the facts surrounding a potential claim in a timely manner. …
SB 689 would undermine the ability of a local government to properly conduct investigations in its defense. Local governments provide a wide range of public services that can give rise to injury claims, including: law enforcement, corrections, and firefighting services; road, sidewalk, and storm drain maintenance; local public transportation; solid waste collection; building inspection; animal control; recreation and park facilities; and water and sewer services. For most claims, a lack of a timely notice would impede a local government’s ability to collect information about the alleged injury, putting the local government at an evidentiary disadvantage. …
The LGTCA has worked well for several decades, successfully balancing the ability of plaintiffs to assert claims and recover damages against local governments versus recognizing the unique role of local governments in providing public services and preserving a local government’s ability to adequately investigate claims made against it. SB 689 would upset that successful balance, reducing the ability of a local government to defend itself and increasing its litigation and liability costs.
On February 26, MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp was joined by representatives from the Baltimore City Administration and the Housing Authority of Baltimore City to testify against HB 1271 before the House Environmental Matters Committee. HB 1271 would create an exception to the LGTCA’s 180-day notice requirement for claims arising from exposure to lead paint that occurred on or after January 1, 1998.
SB 987 is the cross-file to HB 1271 and will be heard by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on March 12. MACo will also be opposing HB 809, which would waive the 180-day notice requirement for injuries arising from synthetic or artificial turf fields. HB 809 will be heard by the House Judicial Proceedings Committee on March 5.