August 19, 2011

Drinking Water in Fallston

People move to Fallston to get away from a little bit if the hustle and bustle. But Fallston is in the spotlight now as homes in a community called Grafton Ridge are worried about their drinking water.

Apparently, there is an unacceptable amount of lead in the residents' drinking water. I used to defend lead paint cases years ago. One thing is for sure: lead causes brain injuries in children.

Are their potential lawsuits here? Sure. Against who? No one knows. An investigation is ongoing. The second hurdle for successful claims is going to be the lead exposure levels. Lead is ubiquitous. My kids are exposed to lead and so are yours. The question is what are the levels.

You can find the story on Channel 2 here.

July 13, 2011

Maryland Statute of Limitations and Legal Malpractice

The general statute of limitations in Maryland is three years, as set forth in Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 5-101. This is the "default" statute of limitations that applies unless another limitations period is applicable. Master Fin., Inc. v. Crowder, 409 Md. 51, 70, 972 A.2d 864, 875 (2009).

I've seen statistics that nearly a third of all legal malpractice claims arise out of personal injury lawyers blowing the statute of limitations. How is that? Some lawyers are so disorganized they just miss the statute. But I suspect this is the minority of cases. The main culprits are the most notable exceptions for Maryland personal injury lawyers of these general rules which either apply a different statute of limitations or require notice to bring a claim:

  • Maryland Local Government Tort Claims Act
  • Maryland Tort Claims Act
  • Federal Tort Claims Act
  • Error in which states' procedural rules apply

July 11, 2011

Loss of Service Damages in Maryland

For years - it all started right after Henry Ford - accident lawyers have been listening to clients and their spouses say they should be entitled to compensation for loss of services even when the victim survives the accident. More Maryland accident lawyers are paying closer attention to this and including these damages in personal injury lawsuits.

Jury Verdict Research put out a study based on verdicts rendered from February 1998 through February 2010 for loss of services damages in non-wrongful death cases. The overall median compensatory award for loss of services in non-death cases was $25,000. The average, however, was $234,764.

Clearly, and this is interesting, juries are more receptive to these claims when the accident victim is a married woman. The median award was $40,000 for wives and the average was $365,510.

March 17, 2011

Maximizing Auto Negligence Damages at Mediation, Arbitration and District Court Trials

MAJ is putting on a auto negligence seminar called "Maximizing Auto Negligence Damages at
Mediation, Arbitration and District Court Trials" on April 29th in Columbia.

John B. Bratt, Miller & Zois, LLC
Eric N. Schloss, Gordon, Feinblatt, Rothman, Hoffberger & Hollander, LLC

Judge Clifton J. Gordy, retired, Mediation
John Sandbower, The McCammon Group
Judge Carol E. Smith, retired, Creative Dispute Resolution
W. Scott Sonntag,The Law Office of W. Scott Sonntag, PA
Judge Philip N. Tirabassi, Baltimore County District Court

You don't need to be a member of the Maryland Association of Justice to attend. Get more information here.

October 22, 2010

Defense Verdict in Police on Police Shooting in Baltimore City

The defendant prevailed in lawsuit contending that a Baltimore City police officer was negligent when he shot and killed a fellow police officer during a fight that erupted at an East Baltimore strip club.

I didn't follow this sad case. You can read the Maryland Daily Record account of the case and the verdict here.

October 11, 2010

Retained Brain and Accident Death Lawsuit

A New York appellate court ruled that the New York City Medical Examiner's Office's failure to inform parents that they had removed and kept their 17 year-old son's brain created a cause of action against the ME.

I don't know how I feel about this case. On some level, when you lose a 17 year-old son, you are always right. About everything. It is so awful you sort of want to spin everything in the parent's favor. On the other hand, the brain was returned (as strange as that sentence sounds). It seems like a great deal of litigation over an issue that is incredibly tangential to the core issue: the tragic death of a young man in a car accident. The boy's sister also has a separate lawsuit pending for her emotional injuries because she was in the zone of danger.

You can read the full story and draw your own conclusions here.

May 24, 2010

Reasonable Attorneys' Fees

The 4th Circuit flipped a District Court decision to reduce attorneys' fees in the case from $6,000,000 to $600,000. Why? The court acknowledged that plaintiffs' personal injury lawyers take on risk when they take a case.

Plaintiffs' personal injury lawyers are victims (yes, I said victims) of what Malcolm Gladwell and others call "creeping determinism," the sense that, in hindsight, what has happened was actually inevitable when the outcome was far from inevitable from the beginning.

May 21, 2010

Castle Doctrine in Maryland

Governor O'Malley signed into Maryland law a version of the "Castle Doctrine" that provides civil immunity when defending your house of workplace.

This bill has no practical impact in the real world. Criminals are really not bringing successful claims against homeowners. But, as I explained on the Maryland Injury Lawyer Blog, immunities are all a part of what James Sawyer called the "Long Con." Clearly, the commenters to this post disagree.

April 30, 2010

Spotting a Holdout Juror

I found this link from the Daily Record's blog to a rare Daily Double about spotting a prospective hold out juror; it was both funny and educational. Of course, it would have been a lot more educational if Maryland had a voir dire process that allowed you to actually learn something about the jurors besides their name, rank and serial number.

April 5, 2010

Monday Morning Links

I'm back from vacation where I spent most of the time isolated from the outside world. I came in early this morning and spent an hour catching up on what was going on in the legal/personal injury world while I was gone. Happy Easter Monday to all.

  • The Maryland Daily Record has an article on oral arguments in Freed v. D.R.D.
  • Sign of the Apocalypse for today from Overlawyered: a personal injury law firm in Connecticut will have a drive through window
  • Justice John Paul Stevens apparently is in his final days on the Supreme Court
  • Eric Turkewitz pretty much destroys any suggestion that his April fools pranks are unethical. Legal ethics are incredibly important and they get cheapened when people claim violations for conduct that is clearly not an ethical violation.

November 18, 2009

Dodgeball Lawsuit

Deadspin has post about a boy who has filed a lawsuit over injuries suffered while on the bleachers of a dodgeball middle school.

Apparently, the boy was in a car accident and had dental work done. The ball broke his new bridgework.

First, I think Deadspin completely screws up by naming the boy. I cannot imagine what the point would be.

The one thing that has some appeal from a plaintiffs' lawyers point of few: they were using soccer balls for the dodgeball game. That is just an awful idea.

But was it the value of this case? Does it make it worth it to put a 12 year-old boy on the line as the plaintiff what will be forever mocked - regardless of the facts - as the dodgeball lawsuit?

In 2006, the National Association of Sports and Physical Education began discouraging schools from playing dodgeball and some states have made dodgeball illegal because it gives bullies another vehicle to be bullies. The counter argument is games like dodgeball give kids the opportunity to figure out whether they are bullies or if they are victims. One way or another, kids are going to figure this out anyway. So they may as well learn in a controlled environment who they are and how to adapt and cope with that reality.

October 9, 2009

Dr. Phil Lawsuit

Dr. Phil is the subject of a lawsuit. The alleged victim filed suit - acting as her own lawyer - on Wednesday, alleging that Dr. Phil touched her breast and forced her to stay in his office with a naked man in 2007.

Let's take a look at the Vegas odds on this:

Chances of These Charges Being True: 200-1

Chances Plaintiff Prevails at Trial: 10,000-1

Chances the Case Gets Dismissed on Motion: 1-20

You can find a copy of the lawsuit here. I'd be lying if I said I read it.

June 1, 2009

Tiger Attack Settlement

The San Francisco Zoo agreed Thursday to settle its lawsuit against the two brothers who survived the fatal attack by an escaped tiger on Christmas Day 2007 for $900,000.

I really did not follow this accident very closely. I remember the allegations that I don't think were ever proven that the victims taunted the tiger before it jumped out of its enclosure. But I bet it happened just like that.

Again, from a distance, this case has a "public relations nightmare turned into overpaying for the case" flavor to it.

June 1, 2009

Police Brutality Cases

A Baltimore jury has awarded $60,000 to a Patterson Park man after finding he was a victim of an overzealous officer on Christmas Day 2007, according to an article today in the Maryland Daily Record. You can click on the link, I don't have much to say about the case beyond the Daily Record summary.

I'm sure that there are a lot of police brutality cases in Maryland. As a lawyer, I have never reviewed one. How police brutality lawyers are able to weed though the all of the claims is incredible to me. Reviewing medical malpractice cases is harder but the upside make it worth the trouble. You can get a good verdict on a case with extreme facts in brutality cases and still get a relatively small verdict. Moreover, so many of the police brutality cases are invariably "he said, she said" cases.

May 11, 2009

Getting Police Reports: Montgomery County Makes It Easier

Getting police reports is often a challenge Maryland car accident lawyers.Montgomery County has joined the 21st Century with a new online system where you can download police reports.

I hope other Maryland counties follow suit.

January 7, 2009

Complaints about Maryland Lawyers Fall

The Maryland Daily Record reports that the number of docketed complaints of lawyer misconduct fell by nearly 24 percent in the final six months of 2008, compared to the same period in 2007. Maryland Bar Counsel Mel Hirshman called the statistically significant fall in client criticism "unexpected" in this time of economic turmoil because complaints against Maryland lawyers tend to increase during economic turbulence for two reasons: (1) clients are unable to pay their attorneys’ fees which sours relationships and (2) Maryland lawyers who feel compelled to nibble into IOLTA accounts because they are behind on their own bills.

Maryland personal injury lawyers are immune from the former and largely immune from the latter simply because money typically does not sit for extended periods of time in IOLTA accounts in most personal injury cases. In fact, the number of complaints fell sharply in personal injury and property damage cases, to 37 percent - down from 48 percent a year earlier.

Three possible reasons for this: (1) lawyers are becoming more ethical and this is leading to a drop in complaints; (2) in a poor economy, people have less energy to spend on anger and spite because they are more concerned with their economic situations, leading to fewer complaints - valid or invalid - that their lawyers are jerks, unresponsive, etc.; or (3) it’s just a statistical anomaly.

Continue reading "Complaints about Maryland Lawyers Fall" »

December 15, 2008

Maryland Assocation for Justice Auto Negligence Meeting

The Maryland Assocation for Justice's Auto Negligence Section has its next dinner meeting on January 7, 2009. The speaker will be Miller & Zois' own Rod Gaston on the topic of defense medical examinations.

The dinner is at:

That’s Amore Restaurant
10400 Little Patuxent Pkwy.
Columbia, MD 21044

If you are a MAJ member (formerly Maryland Trial Lawyers Association) handling car accident cases in Maryland, it is worthwhile to join the Auto Negligence Section.

December 10, 2008

Jury Awards and the Recession

The Maryland Daily Record has an article today on a Baltimore County jury which has awarded $44,000 for attorney’s fees to a Hunt Valley lawyer from his former client, a home builder.

Except for the expert witness fees I receive when I’m acting as an expert witness in legal malpractice cases, our firm does not bill by the hour. So I found nothing about the specific fact pattern of this case that I think is interesting to personal injury lawyers or their clients.

What I did find interesting was the plaintiff’s lawyer’s conversation with the jurors after the trial with respect to an 18 percent interest rate on outstanding invoices as outlined in the lawyer’s retainer agreement. The jurors apparently said they did not think 18% was appropriate given the current economy.

The case almost does not seem serious enough to use the words “jury nullification.” But that is exactly what it is, right? The jury ignored the law because it thought justice in today’s economy mandated a different result.

It is going to be interesting to see the impact the recession will have on personal injury verdicts. Because good data on verdicts usually has a one year lag time, we are not going have an empirical idea of any change in verdicts for quite some time. For now, we are just trying to read the tea leaves. This verdict is an interesting leaf but I’m not really sure whether this kind of thinking has any application to personal injury cases.

November 20, 2008

Maryland Mediators and Arbitrators in Personal Injury Cases

We added on the Miller & Zois website the internal list that our lawyers keep of arbitrators and mediators in Maryland who we believe mediate or arbitrate personal injury cases.

As we make clear, this is not a list our our recommended mediators or arbitrators, just a collection of those that are doing the work. We refer to the list if arbitrating or mediating a case so it occured to me that others might want to have the same option, be it another personal injury lawyer or even an insurance company.

October 13, 2008

Maryland High Court to Hear Non-Economic Cap Case

The Maryland Daily Record reports that the Maryland Court of Appeals will hear a challenge to Maryland’s statutory cap on non-economic damages involving a lead paint case in Baltimore City.

I think it is interesting the Maryland high court granted cert in this case. I'm not optimistic. But boy would the landscape flip here if the Maryland Court of Appeals agrees these caps are unjust under Maryland's Constitution.