General Assembly Raises Local Liability Limits In Waning Hours of Session

As previously reported on Conduit Street, the General Assembly’s decision over how much to increase local government tort caps and notice requirement under HB 113 was still in question until late on Sine Die. An April 14 Daily Record article reported that the Legislature ultimately decided on raising the caps from $200,000 to $400,000 for an individual claim and from $500,000 to $800,000 for all claims arising out of a single incident or occurrence.  In addition, the requirement that an injured person notify a local government about potential liability was increased from 6 months to 1 year. (A person does not have to actually bring suit in the 1 year timeframe, only take some action to let the local government know about the potential liability.)

Both MACo and the Maryland Municipal League agreed to the increases after successfully fighting off much higher tort limits and notice requirements, as well as proposals creating separate liability limits for constitutional violations or adding an automatic cost inflator.  The article highlighted the differing opinions of the involved conference committee participants over the final agreement:

Sen. Robert A. “Bobby” Zirkin, who chaired a three-member team of Senate negotiators, called the cap increase “progress” in protecting the rights of people injured or killed by the negligence of governmental agents, such as police or bus drivers.

“The next round of victims will get a little more” compensation, Zirkin said after Monday night’s vote. He said he will propose another increase in the next General Assembly session.

“We will be back,” said Zirkin, D-Baltimore County and chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Del. Samuel I. “Sandy” Rosenberg, A Baltimore Democrat who chaired a three-member team of House negotiators, said the cap increase “strikes an appropriate balance” between compensating injured people and protecting the taxpayer-supported coffers of state, county and local governments.

The General Assembly also passed similar legislation (HB 114) that increased the liability caps for the State.