Ceron v. Kamara

In Ceron v. Kamara, the Appellate Court of Maryland addressed an appeal following a motor vehicle accident in Montgomery County.  The big issue on appeal is the trial court’s decision to permit the defendant’s counsel to introduce reasoning for expert consultation during closing arguments, which was not previously in evidence, questioning the fairness of this action. The appellate court – to my surprise, anyway – affirmed the trial court’s judgment, despite assuming potential error.

I get it, the court is trying to find balance between the wide latitude given to attorneys in closing arguments and the requirement that these arguments be based solely on evidence presented during the trial.  But I think the court comes out on the wrong side.


The defendant, Richard Kamara, admitted liability for the accident, leaving the issue of damages for the trial. After a three-day trial in the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County, the jury awarded Ceron $243,000 in damages. Ceron thought she deserved a bigger payout and appealed the decision, questioning whether the trial court erred by allowing the defendant’s counsel to introduce new evidence during closing arguments.

The Battleground at Trial

The central issue at trial was the extent of Ceron’s injuries. Ceron claimed she suffered significant spinal injuries due to the accident, including a herniated disk that required surgery. She presented testimony from two medical experts to support her claims and sought substantial economic and non-economic damages. The defendant did not dispute Ceron’s injury but attributed her spinal issues to a pre-existing condition, as supported by testimony from two of his medical experts.

Closing Arguments

During closing arguments, the appellant’s counsel questioned why one of the defendant’s experts, Dr. Khan, was not asked to provide an opinion on the cause of the herniated disk, suggesting inconsistency in the defendant’s expert testimonies. In response, the defendant’s counsel explained her reasons for consulting Dr. Khan, stating that she had not used another expert, Dr. Moatz, before and initially doubted Dr. Moatz’s accuracy. This explanation prompted an objection from the appellant’s counsel, arguing that the reasons for retaining Dr. Moatz were not in evidence. The trial court overruled the objection.

The appellate court assumed that the trial court may have erred in overruling the objection. But the court concluded that Ceron failed to demonstrate that the alleged error prejudicially influenced the jury’s decision.

The court noted the importance of closing arguments in clarifying issues for the jury but stressed that attorneys should not state or comment upon facts not in evidence. Despite this principle, the appellate court determined that the objectionable comments did not prejudice Ceron’s case sufficiently to warrant reversal. The court emphasized the isolated nature of the comments, the lack of curative measures taken by the trial court, and the weight of evidence presented during the trial.

The appellate court’s analysis provides a comprehensive examination of the permissible scope of closing arguments and the standards for evaluating potential prejudice resulting from improper comments. The decision reaffirms the broad discretion trial courts have in regulating closing arguments and underscores the appellant’s burden to demonstrate not just error but also prejudice that likely affected the jury’s decision.