In a Maryland negligence action, a plaintiff must be able to prove that the defendant owed a duty to commit an act or refrain from committing an act; the defendant breached their duty; the breach of the duty caused an injury to the plaintiff; the defendant’s actions were the proximate cause of the injury and the plaintiff suffered damages.
Irwin v. Sprigg gave rise to the contributory negligence standard that Maryland continues to follow today.
The contributory negligence standard considers even the slightest personal responsibility on the part of the plaintiff for their own injury to be a complete bar from monetary recovery. Therefore, if a court determines that a plaintiff was 1% at fault for their injury and a defendant was 99% at fault, the plaintiff will not be able to recover.
In Maryland, the plaintiff must prove by the preponderance of the evidence that the defendant was negligent. The burden then shifts to the defendant to show that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent.
Maryland honors the “last clear chance” doctrine which states that where an injured party placed themselves in danger of injury at the hands of another person which they are unable to prevent, that if the other person knows or should know of the danger in time to avoid causing injury, and they fail to exercise reasonable care to do so, they are guilty of negligence.
Joint & Several Liability
In Maryland, if two or more defendants are found to have been entirely responsible for a plaintiff’s injury (the plaintiff did not contribute in any way to their injury), then the defendants would be jointly and severally liable for the damages.
This means that each defendant would be responsible for paying the entire award amount. This form of liability helps to protect the plaintiff in that it is possible that one defendant is wealthier or in a better financial position than another and as a result, the plaintiff is authorized by law to collect their recovery solely from that defendant.
If a plaintiff recovers the full damage award amount from one defendant, despite the fact that, that defendant was not entirely responsible for the injury, that defendant is permitted to seek contribution against the other responsible defendants.
Compensatory damages are awarded by a Court to compensate the plaintiff for injuries suffered as a result of the negligence of the defendant(s). The award is meant to restore the plaintiff – as much as possible – to the condition they were in prior to the injury occurring.
In Maryland, a plaintiff may recover compensatory damages related to medical expenses (past and future); lost wages; and non-economic damages such as pain and suffering; inconvenience; disfigurement; or physical impairment.
Maryland does not allow a compensatory damage award for non-economic damages to be in excess of $815,000. That dollar amount increases by $15,000 each October per Maryland Courts & Judicial Pleadings Code Annotated § 11-108(b)(3)(i).
Punitive damages are meant to punish a defendant rather than to compensate the plaintiff.
In Maryland, in order to trigger a claim for punitive damages, the plaintiff’s initial complaint must make a specific claim for punitive damages and provide the reasoning as to why a punitive damage award is warranted.
Punitive damages are only awarded when the defendant acted with actual malice. Maryland considers actual malice to exist when a defendant intended to injure or had an evil or wrongful motive.
The law firm of Walker Morgan is located at 135 E Main St., Lexington, SC 29072. All lawyers at Walker Morgan are licensed to practice law in the State of South Carolina. Should you wish to retain our firm for legal representation regarding a potential case in any other jurisdiction we are required to associate local counsel in that foreign jurisdiction and seek permission from a court of the foreign jurisdiction to temporarily engage in the practice of law therein for purposes of pursuing your potential claim only.
By offering the following information the lawyers at Walker Morgan are not offering legal advice or legal guidance. The lawyers at Walker Morgan are not licensed to practice law in Maryland. Should you have a question/concern specific to Maryland law, please contact an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Maryland.