Judge Maurice Baldwin basically denied the Defendant's Motion to reduce the $150 Million Dollar Verdict against Exxon in the leak case in Baltimore County. After a 5 month trial in Baltimore County Circuit Court the jury awarded $71 Million Dollars ($71,000,000.00) in non-economic damages and Sixty One Million Dollars in decreased property value ($61,000,000.00), and Fourteen Million Dollars ($14,000,000.00) in medical monitoring. No punitive damages were awarded (they are very difficult to get in Maryland based on the Zenobia decision--basically you need to prove intentional conduct and/or actual malice). Judge Baldwin made a reduction in the award fro 4 homes that sold after the leek to the difference between the before leak appraisal and sale price. Judge Baldwin is a visiting judge who is retired from the Harford County Circuit Court. Exxon Mobil's attorney James Sanders indicated that Exxon will most likely appeal the decision. This is one of the greatest verdicts of all time in the State of Maryland. Attorneys Steve Snyder, Bob Welcheck, and others involved in representing the Plaitniffs should be very proud of the work they have done. The Judge's decision came as a result of a motion for remitter which is when a defendant asks the Judge to either reduce the verdict or grant a new trial.
September 2009 Archives
The Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area is seeing an increase in fatal hit and run accidents according to the AAA. The majority of these fatal car accidents involve pedestrians. Most of these accidents are occurring in uban areas such as Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, D.C. On September 17 a pedestrian was killed on Annapolis Road in Riverdale, MD according to Prince George's County police. On September 18 a bicyclist was critically injured as a result of being struck by a car in Washington, D.C. In both cases, the driver left the scene of the accident and has not been apprehended. Other hit and run incidents that AAA notes in our area include two women who were struck by a car in Silver Spring, MD near Capital View Avenue (they were both dragged by the car but survived). In August a 28 year old bicyclist was killed on Lee Highway and Lake Manassas Drive in Gainesville. Emmanuel Yeboah was biking when he was stuck by a car from behind. A cyclist was killed in Ocean City, MD by a hit and run driver according to Maryland State Police. AAA studies indicate that fatal hit and run crashes most often occur on weekends and in the evening hours. An article on this very issue can be found at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/21/AR2009092103498.html
The rise in hit and run accidents is an excellent reason to be sure that you have adequate uninsured motorist coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage provides protection to you and your family members when involved in a Maryland car accident with an uninsured motorist. Maryland law's definition of an uninsured motorist includes a hit and run motorist. Uninsured motorist coverage is relatively cheap to purchase, and we recommend that all motorists buy at least $100,000.00 of uninsured motorist protection (buy as much coverage as you can reasonably afford). More coverage should be bought if at all possible. Insurance Agents often will try to sell Maryland Consumer minimum limits policies and/or try to get consumers to waive uninsured motorist coverage. NEVER WAIVE YOUR UNINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE (Or PIP Coverage). It is critically important. If you are injured as a result of an "uninsured motorist" or a hit and run accident call us toll free at 301-589-2999 or visit our website at www.gfmlawllc.com. Phone consultations are free and there is no attorney fee if there is no recovery.
In Washington, D.C. and Maryland there are a lot of uninsured motorists out there and it is critically important that you have uninsured motorist coverage to protect you and your family in the event that you are struck by an uninsured motorist or a hit and run vehicle. The Maryland uninsured motorist law is at 19-509 of the Insurance Article of the Maryland Code and is set forth below:
§ 19-509. Uninsured motorist coverage-in general
(a) In this section, "uninsured motor vehicle" means a motor vehicle:
(1) the ownership, maintenance, or use of which has resulted in the bodily injury or death of an insured; and
(2) for which the sum of the limits of liability under all valid and collectible liability insurance policies, bonds, and securities applicable to bodily injury or death:
(i) is less than the amount of coverage provided under this section; or
(ii) has been reduced by payment to other persons of claims arising from the same occurrence to an amount less than the amount of coverage provided under this section.
(b) The uninsured motorist coverage required by this section does not apply to a motor vehicle liability insurance policy that insures a motor vehicle that:
(1) is not subject to registration under § 13-402 of the Transportation Article because it is not driven on a highway; or
(2) is exempt from registration under § 13-402(c)(10) of the Transportation Article.
(c) In addition to any other coverage required by this subtitle, each motor vehicle liability insurance policy issued, sold, or delivered in the State after July 1, 1975, shall contain coverage for damages, subject to the policy limits, that:
(1) the insured is entitled to recover from the owner or operator of an uninsured motor vehicle because of bodily injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of the uninsured motor vehicle; and
(2) a surviving relative of the insured, who is described in § 3-904 of the Courts Article, is entitled to recover from the owner or operator of an uninsured motor vehicle because the insured died as the result of a motor vehicle accident arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of the uninsured motor vehicle.
(d) The uninsured motorist coverage required by this section shall be in the form and subject to the conditions that the Commissioner approves.
(e)(1) The uninsured motorist coverage contained in a motor vehicle liability insurance policy:
(i) shall at least equal:
1. the amounts required by Title 17 of the Transportation Article; and
2. the coverage provided to a qualified person under Title 20, Subtitle 6 of this article; and
(ii) may not exceed the amount of liability coverage provided under the policy.
(2) Unless waived in accordance with § 19-510 of this subtitle, the amount of uninsured motorist coverage provided under a private passenger motor vehicle liability insurance policy shall equal the amount of liability coverage provided under the policy.
(f) An insurer may exclude from the uninsured motorist coverage required by this section benefits for:
(1) the named insured or a family member of the named insured who resides in the named insured's household for an injury that occurs when the named insured or family member is occupying or is struck as a pedestrian by an uninsured motor vehicle that is owned by the named insured or an immediate family member of the named insured who resides in the named insured's household; and
(2) the named insured, a family member of the named insured who resides in the named insured's household, and any other individual who has other applicable motor vehicle insurance for an injury that occurs when the named insured, family member, or other individual is occupying or is struck as a pedestrian by the insured motor vehicle while the motor vehicle is operated or used by an individual who is excluded from coverage under § 27-609 of this article.
(g) The limit of liability for an insurer that provides uninsured motorist coverage under this section is the amount of that coverage less the amount paid to the insured, that exhausts any applicable liability insurance policies, bonds, and securities, on behalf of any person that may be held liable for the bodily injuries or death of the insured.
(h)(1) A policy that, as its primary purpose, provides coverage in excess of other valid and collectible insurance or qualified self-insurance may include the uninsured motorist coverage provided for in this section.
(2) The uninsured motorist coverage required by this section is primary to any right to recovery from the Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund under Title 20, Subtitle 6 of this article.
(i) An endorsement or provision that protects the insured against damages caused by an uninsured motor vehicle that is contained in a policy issued and delivered in the State is deemed to cover damages caused by a motor vehicle insured by a liability insurer that is insolvent or otherwise unable to pay claims to the same extent and in the same manner as if the damages were caused by an uninsured motor vehicle.
(j) A provision in a motor vehicle liability insurance policy issued after July 1, 1975, about coverage for damages sustained by the insured as a result of the operation of an uninsured motor vehicle that requires a dispute between the insured and the insurer to be submitted to binding arbitration is prohibited and is of no legal effect.
MD Code, Insurance, § 19-509
A civil jury in PG County, MD compensated a lady whose child died in a Maryland car crash with a police officer $4 Million Dollars. The jury determined that a Prince George's County Police Officer was negligent when he crashed his police car into a 20 year old's car and killed him. The jury essentially found that Officer/Corporal Mario Chavez was going twice the speed limit at the time of the crash. The Maryland car accident was in December of 2007 and the decedent is Brian Gray. Mr. Gray was a college student at the University of Maryland and he was on his way to take an exam. PG County tried to argue that Mr. Gray was contributory negligent (a finding of contributory negligence is a bar to any recovery in Maryland--very unfair).
What I find most interesting is that The Washington Post reported the $4 Million Dollar verdict, but there is no mention of the fact that the verdict will be reduced substantially based on the Local Government Tort Claims Act. In Maryland, claims against local governments are limited to $200,000.00 per individual claim and $500,000 for total claims that arise from the same occurrence (Section 5-303 of the Cts & Jud Pro. Art. MD Code). Therefore, although the Washington Post and other news outlets reported a $4 Million Dollar Verdict, the reality is that the amount that Mr. Gray's family will collect is substantially less than that. I think it is irresponsible for news agencies to report on the amount of a verdict, but not to report the fact that almost all large jury verdicts end up getting reduced by the judge for one reason or another (In this case because of the Maryland Local Government Tort Claims Act). This leaves the public with the impression that there are a lot of large tort recoveries when in fact there are very few.
The following is a statement from Maryland Association for Justice President Kevin Goldberg:
Columbia, MD--"Last night, President Obama made the case for health care reform to provide coverage for the uninsured and to lower health care costs for all Americans.
"The plan for demonstration projects raised by President Obama will require more detail. But the focus of any project must be on improving patient safety and reducing medical errors that kill over 98,000 people each year in American hospitals. Shielding health care providers from accountability will not improve health care.
"The attorneys who represent injured patients see first-hand the effects medical errors have on patients and their families. Everyone should keep injured people in mind as the debate moves forward. Providing justice for injured patients should not become barter for compromise on health insurance reform."
In Virginia, the law is uninsured (and under-insured) motorist coverages can be stacked unless there is crystal clear policy language prohibiting such stacking. On June 4, 2009 the Virginia Supreme Court issued an opinion in Virginia Farm Bureau v. Williams which held that an injured child was entitled to $850,000.00 in under-insured motorist coverage since the UM endorsement was ambiguous in the policy.
Generally, if insurance policy language is ambiguous and can be understood to have more than one meaning, then its language will be interpreted in favor of coverage and against the insurance company. It is really important that anyone injured in an accident who is insured with a Virginia automobile policy have a car accident attorney examine the insurance policy carefully to determine how much insurance coverage is available. If there are 5 vehicles insured on the policy and a premium was paid for each vehicle to have $100,000.00 in uninsured motorist coverage, then there will likely be $500,000.00 in um coverage available unless there is clear policy language stating that the coverage does not stack. If you or your loved one has been seriously injured in an accident, the lawyers at Goldberg, Finnegan & Mester will carefully review applicable insurance policy language and determine whether it is possible to stack insurance coverages. This is critical in catastrophic injury cases where the injuries and medical expenses alone can far exceed the available insurance coverages on the at fault driver's liability insurance policy. Unlike Virginia, the law in Maryland is that insurance coverages do not stack. Therefore, if you are insured with a Virginia automobile policy and you are injured in an accident in Maryland, it is important to be sure that your lawyer knows the law in both jurisdictions so that a determination can be made as to whether you are entitled to stack coverages.
For more information about maximizing the amount of insurance coverage available for your auto accident case, read Kevin Goldberg's article published in Trial Reporter: http://www.gfmlawllc.com/pdf/summer_article_2008.pdf