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  • October 28, 2014

Evidence of Immigration Status in a Personal Injury Case

In the case of Ayala v. Lee, 215 Md. App. 457, 81 A.3d 584 (2013), the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland held that evidence of a plaintiff’s status as an undocumented immigrant can be admissible in a personal injury action if the evidence is relevant and not prejudicial.  This lawsuit arose out of a motor vehicle accident in which Rigoberto E. Domingos Ayala and Jose R. Rodas Santacruz sustained severe injuries while they were working for their employer Ebb Tide Tents and Party Rentals.  Ayala, Santacruz, and Ayala’s wife filed a lawsuit against Robert F. Lee, the driver of…

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  • October 13, 2014

Maryland Taverns Shielded from Liability Caused by Intoxicated Patrons — For Now

In Warr v. JMGM Group, LLC, 433 Md. 170 (2013), the Court of Appeals of Maryland reaffirmed that taverns, bars or others who serve alcohol are not liable for serving visibly intoxicated patrons who thereafter cause automobile accidents.  In Warr, Michael Eaton spent approximately six (6) hours at Dogfish Head Alehouse drinking roughly twenty-one alcoholic drinks, and he became “violent and aggressive.”  While Mr. Eaton was being served at Dogfish Head Alehouse, he was “‘clearly intoxicated.’”  Mr. Eaton left the bar and was traveling between eighty-eight (88) to ninety-eight (98) miles per hour when he struck another vehicle, which caused…

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  • September 4, 2014

Producing Documents Kept in the Regular Course of Business

The discovery process can create significant stress for parties involved in litigation.  One of the most onerous aspects of discovery, especially for businesses, is document production.  Document production often requires the disclosure of voluminous records, some of which may be several years old and may contain proprietary or sensitive information.  Electronic storage and retrieval capabilities have made the process easier, but responding to requests for production of documents remains burdensome. The burden has been made slightly less heavy by a ruling by a magistrate judge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.  In Kwasniewski v. Sanofi-Aventis U.S.…

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  • June 24, 2014

Under Maryland Law, the Insurer has the Right to Select Defense Counsel Notwithstanding a Reservation of Rights for Non-Covered Claims

Conflicts between the insurer and the insured can arise from the fact that the duty to defend is much broader than the duty to indemnify. The insurer’s distinct and independent duty to defend its insured is triggered by claims that give rise to the “potentiality” of indemnification under the policy[1]. Litz v State Farm Fire & Casualty Co., 346 Md. 217, 695 A.2d 566 (1997); Fireman’s Fund v Rairigh, 59 Md. App. 305, 320, 475 A.2d 509, 516, cert denied, 310 Md. 176 (1984); Rivera Beach Vol. Fire Co., Supra. As the Maryland Court of Appeals held in St. Paul…

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  • June 10, 2014

Maryland Wrongful Death Statute Survives Challenge and Lives On

In Susan Mummert, et al. v. Massoud B. Alizadeh, et al., 435 Md. 207, 77 A.3d 1049 (2013), Maryland’s highest Court held that a wrongful death beneficiary’s right to file a lawsuit is not contingent upon the decedent’s ability to bring a timely negligence claim on the date of her death. The question on appeal revolved around key language in Maryland’s Wrongful Death Statute, including the requirement that a “wrongful act” be one “which would have entitled the party injured to maintain an action and recover damages if death had not ensued.” The facts giving rise to the wrongful death…

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  • April 22, 2014

Maryland Court of Appeals Holds that Release of a Tortfeasor Does Not Release an Uninsured Motorist Claim

On March 18, 2007, Ember Buckley was a passenger in a vehicle operated by her then boyfriend, Harvey Betts.  The vehicle was involved in a single vehicle accident.  Ms. Buckley was injured and incurred medical bills exceeding $200,000.  Mr. Betts’ liability insurance carrier, GEICO, offered to settle Ms. Buckley’s claim against Mr. Betts for the $100,000 liability policy limits.  Since the GEICO policy limits were not enough to cover her medical bills, Ms. Buckley made a claim for uninsured/underinsured (“UM”) motorist coverage against her own insurer, The Brethren Mutual Insurance Company.  Brethren’s UM policy had limits of $300,000, which afford…

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  • April 1, 2014

Volunteer Immunity in Maryland

No matter how industrious, intelligent, and capable an individual may be, success or hardship in the world is often a product of timing and fortune.  Society has long recognized this fact.  As a result, people continue to be generous with their time and effort, volunteering to a host of worthy charitable causes and non-profit organizations.  Even the most benevolent individuals, however, are subject to the rule of law and risk the possibility of exposing themselves to legal action and liability.  It is crucial, therefore, that individuals become aware of the legal protection afforded to volunteers in Maryland and the limits…

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  • March 18, 2014

Maryland Court of Appeals Holds Exculpatory Clauses Valid and Enforceable Against Claims Made by a Minor Child

Exculpatory clauses have long been used as a means for protecting commercial enterprises, religious and charitable organizations, and other non-profits from potential liability for the consequences of conduct that would otherwise be negligent.  In Maryland, in the absence of legislation to the contrary, exculpatory clauses are generally valid, and public policy of freedom of contract is best served by enforcing provisions of exculpatory clauses.  Wolf v. Ford, 335 Md. 525, 644 A.2d 522 (1994).  Exculpatory clauses have been held valid and enforceable in a variety of situations.  Winterstein v. Wilcom, 16 Md. App. 130, 293 A.2d 821 (1972) (release and waiver of…

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