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In a recent social security disability case, a Maryland District Court considered a situation in which the plaintiff, Kowana Chase, had been denied benefits. The plaintiff claimed disability from August 2005 through 2009 and filed her application in 2007. The disability claimed was the result of musculoskeletal connective tissue injury, status post cervical fusion, and obesity. The Commissioner denied her claim, as did the ALJ.

The District Court explained it would find her legally disabled if she was unable to do any substantial gainful activity because of a medically determined physical or mental impairment that could either result in death or could be expected last continuously for at least 12 months.

The first step was to determine if the claimant was doing substantial gainful activity. Someone able to do such activity is not disabled. The second step was to determine whether the plaintiff had a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that meets the requirement of severity and duration. The third step is whether the plaintiff’s impairment equals or meets the listings and meets the duration requirement. If she has this type of impairment, she is disabled. If she doesn’t have an impairment that meets the listings, the court must decide if she retains residual functional capacity to perform relevant work she has performed before. If she can’t, the next step is to see if she can perform any work given her age, work experience, and education. If she can’t perform any other work, she is disabled. Continue reading →

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crash-739118-mRecently, a serious six-vehicle crash closed down U.S. Route 29 in Howard County, Maryland. The crash started in the northbound lanes when a driver was speeding and driving in an erratic fashion. Eventually, he hit a Honda CRV and a Honda Crosstour and slammed into the center median guardrail. His car flew into the air, landing on a Dodge Ram in the southbound lanes of the highway before striking a trailer, which was being towed by a Ford truck.

Eight people were injured in the crash. Multiple people were ejected from the truck, and others were trapped in a vehicle. The driver was taken to Baltimore’s Shock Trauma, as were two passengers in his car. One of the victims of this accident was listed in critical condition. Others were not hurt.

This situation appears to be one where one driver was responsible for multiple injuries and property damage to multiple vehicles. In Maryland, all drivers are required to have minimum liability limits of $30,000 per person, $60,000 per accident for bodily injuries, and $15,000 per accident for property damage. In multi-vehicle accidents where one person is at fault, multiple injured people will be competing for the policy limits. If only some of these claims are settled, the available policy limits may be exhausted. Continue reading →

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blocks-of-flats-962068-m-2In the 2012 case WMATA v. Williams, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (“WMATA”) appealed after the Circuit Court affirmed the workers’ compensation ruling that a worker’s leg injury was causally related to an earlier work injury.

The claimant worked in a physically demanding job as a mechanic for WMATA. His back and left knee were injured at work, and he had to undergo physical therapy for his knee. Before the claimant got his strength back, the physical therapist recommended work hardening, an intensive type of physical therapy.

The work hardening program was at a different location. On the second to last day of the program, the claimant went back to his truck to eat his lunch. After he finished lunch, he was walking back to a session of the work hardening program when a driver in the parking lot backed into him. This resulted in an injury to his right knee. The claimant claimed workers’ compensation benefits for the right knee. Continue reading →

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white-shepherd-snow-dog-1446334-3-mUp until last spring, Maryland loosely followed what is sometimes called the “one bite rule.” This meant the owner of a dog that bites someone might not be held liable if the bite was the dog’s first bite. An otherwise peaceful dog would get one bite that would not result in owner liability. However, the dog owner was liable to somebody who got bitten by the dog when the dog had a dangerous or vicious propensity, which was known to the owner. Therefore, a dog owner could be held liable if the dog routinely attacked others, even if no actual dog bites had ever occurred.

In April 2014, Maryland passed a new law enacting limited statutory strict liability for dog bite cases. Under the new law, the owner of a dog can be held strictly liable unless he can prove that he didn’t know nor should have known of the vicious propensities of the dog.

In other words, there is now a rebuttable presumption that the owner did know of the dog’s vicious propensity, since the burden of proof is now shifted. It is not up to the victim to prove that the owner actually knew of the vicious propensity if the dog is running at large and bites her, but instead it is up to the owner to show he didn’t know. To strengthen this presumption, the new law says that if the case is going to trial, the judge cannot rule as a matter of law that the presumption has been rebutted before the jury renders its verdict. Continue reading →

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industrial-warehouse-2-1169213-mSome Maryland cases involving workplace injury can be complex because they require more analysis than a simple workers’ compensation claim. If a worker is injured while using a defective machine, there may be a product liability component to the claim. This means that the manufacturer of the machine can be held responsible for a worker’s injuries in civil court under a theory of defective manufacturing, defective design, and breach of warranty. There may also be claims against various entities in the distribution chain, including the company that sold the machine.

In the 2010 case of Miller Metal Fabrication v. Wall, an appellate court considered a products liability case. The defendant manufactured machinery. The machine that caused an injury was a brine-filling machine used by food processors. It was commissioned by Country Fresh and fabricated according to the design for a machine manufactured by a company that no longer existed.

Country Fresh custom-manufactured machinery. It commissioned the machine for use in a mushroom processing plant assembly line. It was installed at a facility in Maryland, where it filled buckets of mushrooms with brine. Continue reading →

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If you are injured in a motorcycle accident in Maryland, injuries are more likely to be severe than if you were operating an automobile. You can sue the driver who is at fault for the crash to recover compensation.

Most often, motorcycle accidents like the one described above happen due to driver negligence. They happen because drivers speed, fail to pay attention, make a turn when they do not have the right of way, follow too closely, or drink and drive. Many drivers do not expect to see motorcycles while driving because they are smaller and nimbler than passenger cars. A motorcycle driver or his or her family bringing a lawsuit based on another driver’s negligence must show  the duty of the driver alleged to be at fault, a breach of duty, causation, and damages. A plaintiff’s failure to establish any one of these elements will result in him or her not recovering any damages.

In many cases, the other driver or its insurance company will raise contributory negligence as a defense. Maryland’s “contributory negligence” defense is the harsh rule that a plaintiff who is partially responsible for his or her injuries in a vehicle accident cannot recover anything. This means that even if a Maryland jury finds you only 1% at fault for an accident, you aren’t permitted to recover anything. Continue reading →

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nurseii-4-1158337-m-3Statute of limitations issues can play a big part in your lawsuit. In medical malpractice lawsuits especially, it is important to consult an attorney as soon as you are aware you might have a claim. Your attorney will likely need time to retain an appropriate expert and review your medical records before you file your complaint, which narrows the window to bring your lawsuit even further.

In a recent case, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals considered whether a medical malpractice case dismissed because the plaintiff failed to attach an expert’s report could be re-filed. Under Subsection 5-119(b) of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, also known as the “savings provision”, a plaintiff whose medical malpractice lawsuit has been dismissed once without prejudice for failure to file a report may re-file the action of claim within 60 days of the date of dismissal, even after the statute of limitations has run. This provision doesn’t apply if you are a plaintiff who voluntarily dismissed your own case.

In this case, the plaintiff was referred to a general surgeon after an abnormal mammogram. The surgeon performed a biopsy, which confirmed she had breast cancer. She chose to have a lumpectomy performed by the surgeon. In two post-operative visits, she complained about redness, swelling and discomfort in her breast where the surgery was performed. The doctor didn’t prescribe any treatment for these problems, which persisted. Continue reading →

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stop-sign-1403571-m-2In a recent case, a Maryland driver and passenger sued Dorothea Maynor, the driver of another car, for negligence. Maynor sued the mayor and City Council of Baltimore. The case arose when Maynor was driving in Baltimore City and entered an intersection without stopping because the stop sign was on the ground and not in the proper standing position. She hit a car driven by Agnes Stokes, who was driving with passenger Bertha Stokes.

The police who responded to the accident noted that the stop sign was on the ground. Maynor’s insurance company notified the City Solicitor of her potential claim under the Local Government Tort Claims Act (LGTCA), which requires a claimant to file notice within 180 days of a tort that could result in a claim against a city. The LGTCA provides a remedy for members of the public who are injured by tortious acts of employees of local governments.

Maynor claimed that the stop sign was on the ground because of a previous car accident the City knew about. She claimed the City knew the stop sign was on the ground but didn’t bother to repair it. Meanwhile, Bertha Stokes filed a complaint against Agnes Stokes, Maynor, and the City. Continue reading →

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old-tools-1130510-mIn a recent case, a Maryland appellate court looked at how an injured worker’s permanent partial disability benefits are capped. The question was whether they were capped by the state average weekly wage in effect on the injury date, or the state average weekly wage for the year when the worker’s permanent partial disability benefits started.

The worker in the case was hurt in 1998, but he argued that his award should be based on the state average weekly wage for 2000, since that was when he established his right to an award for permanent partial disability. The Workers’ Compensation Commission rejected this argument, as did the Circuit Court and Court of Special Appeals.

The worker asked the Court of Appeals to review the case. The Court of Appeals agreed with the lower and intermediate appellate court that the applicable rate was the one in effect on the worker’s injury date. It explained that every year, the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation decides what the state average weekly wage will be. In this case, the worker was awarded 185 weeks of benefits. Continue reading →

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ladder-rungs-1326879-mAlthough independent contractors do not have the right to workers’ compensation benefits in Maryland, there are some cases in which employers have misclassified a worker as an independent contractor when the worker is actually an employee. In Elms v. Renewal by Anderson, the plaintiff (Elms) was a home improvement contractor who owned and operated his own home improvement business that was not incorporated. The business used the business name “Elms Construction Company” and offered window and door installation, roofing, and carpentry. The plaintiff obtained workers’ compensation insurance as a sole proprietor. However, he didn’t include himself on the policy, and his son was the only named employee on the policy.

The plaintiff entered into a relationship with Renewal, a company that performed window and door installation. He installed windows and doors for the company, and he certified that his own construction business carried workers’ compensation insurance. Renewal required the plaintiff and his workers to wear company shirts and plant its company signs in customer yards, and to follow its other policies and rules.

On the first two installation jobs that the plaintiff performed for Renewal, its employees trained his employees in the methods and materials to be used. Subsequently, it reviewed the plaintiff’s installations and required him to make corrections. Renewal also gave report cards to homeowners to rate their installations, and it then offered feedback. The plaintiff believed that he was required to maintain a score of at least 90 percent from customer ratings. Continue reading →