Senate JPR Committee Kills Comparative Fault Legislation

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee voted unfavorably on legislation that would have created a comparative liability standard for pedestrians and bicyclists who were suing vehicle drivers on February 8, 2018. MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp joined with numerous other governmental, business representatives, and defense groups in opposing the bill.

SB 465, sponsored by Senator Susan Lee, would establish a comparative fault standard in civil actions involving a plaintiff who was a pedestrian or driving a nonmotorized vehicle, such as a bicycle, and a defendant who was driving a motor vehicle at the time of the accident. The bill is based on a recommendation from the Task Force to Study Bicycle Safety in Maryland.

From MACo’s testimony:

The bill would upset Maryland’s long-established and carefully constructed contributory negligence system – a system that has been reaffirmed by the Maryland General Assembly approximately 40 times since 1966. Maryland’s adherence to a contributory negligence standard is a sensible public policy that promotes responsible citizen behavior and provides a clear legal standard for jury
consideration.

Maryland’s successful contributory negligence system is built around several critical statutory and case law “support structures.” These supports are inextricably linked with contributory negligence principles and must be addressed as part of any move away from contributory negligence and toward comparative fault. They include: (1) joint and several liability; (2) the “last clear chance” exception; and (3) laws relating to seatbelts.

Knapp was joined by Maryland Municipal League Governmental Relations and Research Manager Bill Jorch and Skip Cornbrooks, representing the Local Government Insurance Trust. Bill supporters included Bike Maryland and other bicyclist associations.

There is no House cross-file to SB 465.

Useful Links

SB 465 of 2018

MACo Testimony on SB 465

Senator Susan Lee Webpage