Articles Posted in Appeals

In Webb v. Giant of Maryland LLC, the Maryland Court of Appeals (COA) was asked to revisit the decision of the Court of Special Appeals (COSA).

The issue was whether the grocery store could be liable for an injury caused by a Pepsi delivery driver while stocking shelves at the store. The Pepsi delivery driver was an independent contractor and not a store employee of Giant. So the question was whether Giant still be liable for the Pepsi driver’s acts based on the level of control they had over him inside the store.

The  Maryland Court of Appeal affirmed the decision of COSA holding that Giant could not be held liable because the store did not exercise the necessary high level of control over the Pepsi driver.

In Ford v. Edmondson Village Shopping Center Holdings, LLC , Maryland Appellate Court examined the question of a landlord’s responsibility in protecting tenants from criminal acts committed by third parties on the landlord’s property.

Thankfully, the court found that an employee of a commercial tenant is considered to have the same legal status on the leased property as the employer-tenant itself, which is that of a tenant rather than a business invitee.  This means employees of the tenant can bring negligent security lawsuits in Maryland.

Facts of Ford v. Edmonson Village Shopping Center Holdings

In Giant of Maryland LLC v. Karen Webb, No. 413, Sept. Term 2019, was asked to decide whether Giant could be liable for an injury to a customer caused by a Pepsi delivery driver while stocking Pepsi products on the shelves. The Pepsi driver was not a Giant employee so the issue was whether Giant could still be liable for his negligent actions based on the level of control they had over him inside the store.

The COSA held that Giant did not have enough control to be liable for the actions of the Pepsi driver. Giant’s “general control” over the work of its product delivery drivers at the store was not enough. In order to be liable, Giant would need to have maintained control over the “operative details and methods” of the independent contractor’s work, including the “very thing from which the injury arose.”

Summary of Giant of Maryland v. Webb

Just as protests over the death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer were erupting around the country, Maryland’s Court of Appeals issued a very timely decision regarding a racially charged police shooting. In Blair v. David Austin, Maryland’s high court reinstated a $200,000 verdict against a Baltimore City Police officer who shot an unarmed black man during a 2015 traffic stop. Specifically, the court held that the Court of Special Appeals erred when it overruled a jury’s decision based on the court’s own independent evaluation of the video evidence. The court explained that whether a video shows excessive police force is a question for the jury, not the court.

Fact Summary

This case arose from an all too familiar event.  My gosh, we are all sick of it.  In February 2015, Baltimore City Police officer attempted to pull over a man (with the last name Blair) for running a red light. Mr. Blair did not immediately pull over and ran another red light before eventually stopping on Freemont Ave. A nearby security camera recorded the stop. The video shows Mr. Blair gets out of his car and move toward Office Austin.

Yesterday the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland released this opinion reversing the Circuit Court for Baltimore County’s entry of summary judgment against one of our clients. The case involves the application of Insurance Article §19-511 in settling an underinsured motorist claim.

Ron Miller offers some preliminary analysis here. I will not steal Ron’s thunder by getting into the specifics myself. I will say that this opinion doesn’t mean that the case is over, there’s still a long way to go. There may be a petition for a writ of certiorari asking the Court of Appeals of Maryland to hear the case, and even if there is no petition or a petition is denied, there are issues to be addressed on remand by the trial court.

But for the moment at least, this is a huge win for our badly injured client. Rod Gaston did a great job setting up the issue in the trial court, and I handled the case on appeal. Our law firm is best known for our trial practice, but we also take a lot of pride in the results we get for our clients on appeal. It matters to us that we are on the front lines of developing the body of law that applies to Maryland personal injury cases because that helps not just our clients, but injury victims all over the state.

One thing that I get asked a lot by our injury clients and by lawyers who don’t regularly handle appeals is “How long will it take before an opinion is issued?” Any appellate lawyers who are reading this know that the only answer to that question is “I don’t know.”

Sometimes opinions are issued quickly, sometimes not. In Maryland’s state appellate courts, the fastest I have gotten an opinion was about 90 days after oral argument. The longest it has taken was nearly 14 months after oral argument. As far as I know, there aren’t any Maryland rules or statutes governing how quickly our appellate courts must resolve cases.

There are two things that have me thinking about this.The first is that I argued an appeal in the Court of Special Appeals on March 9, and I am eagerly awaiting the opinion. Every morning when I come into the office, I check the Maryland Judiciary website to see if the opinion has been released. Not having the opinion by now doesn’t really surprise me, since the Court of Special Appeals is a very busy court. In 2010 (the most recent year statistics are available) <ahref=”http://www.courts.state.md.us/publications/annualreport/reports/2010/annualreport.pdf”> it received 1,980 new case filings and resolved 2,140 cases. Considering that the court had 13 judges, including the Chief Judge, that’s a staggering amount of work- 164 cases per judge! I think part of the reason our intermediate appellate court is so busy is that there is a right to an appeal in just about every criminal case, and most people who are convicted tend to exercise that right regardless of the likelihood of success.

Today the Court of Appeals of Maryland issued an opinion addressing the extent to which expert witnesses who are retained solely for litigation may be forced to produce documentation of the amounts they earn providing expert witness services.

There are actually two cases, which were consolidated on appeal. The first is Falik v. Hornage, No. 60; the second is Falik v. Holthus, No. 90. They are both Miller & Zois cases.

Dr. Joel Falik

Here is an article about a recent opinion of the Georgia Supreme Court (that state’s equivalent to the Court of Appeals of Maryland) that uphold “tort reform” laws passed by the Georgia legislature. These laws were passed in 2005 as part of a package of “tort reform” laws.

The court upheld a Draconian change in the standard of care for victims of medical negligence where the negligent doctor was providing care in an emergency room. In Maryland, doctors in any setting are held to a negligence standard. If the doctor failed to act as a reasonable health care provider would have under the circumstances, that is negligence.

Georgia has a different standard of care as a result of these 2005 laws. To recover for malpractice against a Georgia ER doctor, a plaintiff must prove “gross negligence” by “clear and convincing” evidence. I think Georgia is the only state in the country with a law like this. This changed the pre-existing law in two crucial ways.

I have been away from the blog for a few days because I have been preparing for an oral argument in the Court of Appeals of Maryland. See, when I ignore you readers it is only because I have been doing big, important lawyer-type things.

Yesterday, I argued two consolidated appeals where the issue is the scope of discovery that lawyers can obtain into the financial bias of retained expert witnesses. Nearly every Maryland personal injury case involves some type of expert testimony.

Generally, this falls into two categories. First are treating doctors who are drawn into cases simply because they happened to treat a patient who was injured in a way that later became the subject of litigation. These are not the people I am concerned with. Second, are experts who are only involved in the case because they are sought by one side or the other to give opinion testimony for money, specifically for the purpose of litigation. The way this mostly comes up in what I do is the defense side on an auto or trucking accident case hires a doctor to examine the plaintiff and to testify to one of the following: 1) There is nothing wrong with them; 2) There is something wrong with them, but it is not as bad as they say it is; or 3) There is something wrong with them, and it is as bad as they say it is, but it was caused by anything other than the accident.

Yesterday I received an order from the Court of Appeals of Maryland scheduling oral argument in two cases I am handling. Really, it is one argument, but relates to two cases that have been consolidated on appeal.

The first case is a case my colleague Rod Gaston had for trial in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County. The defendants named a neurosurgeon as an expert witness. Rod obtained an order compelling him to produce certain financial records in an effort to find out how much he is paid for testifying in general, and for the defense attorneys, defense law firms and insurance companies involved in the case specifically. The doctor has appealed that order.

The second case is a truck accident case I am handling in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County. That case has been stayed in the trial court pending the outcome of the appeal. There, the trial court entered a similar order, only with a strong confidentiality provision protecting the privacy of the records to be produced. The doctor has appealed that order as well.