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The most time consuming part of getting any case ready for trial is discovery. This is the process of the two sides learning (discovering, get it?) information about each other’s cases before trial. This is what the lawyers and clients spend their time doing for most of the year between when the case is filed and the trial.

Discovery happens two ways- by exchanging written material, and in person. In person discovery is usually in the form of a deposition, where witness testimony is taken under oath and transcribed for use later on. That’s not what this blog post is about.

Md-reporter

I am here to talk about written discovery, or more accurately, the often ridiculous objections I see used in an effort to avoid answering it. The two primary forms of written discovery are interrogatories and a request for production. Interrogatories are written questions to the other side that must be answered under oath. A request for production is kind of the same, except it is a set of written requests that the other side produce documents or other tangible things relevant to the case.

There has been some controversy recently in the community of Maryland lawyers who handle personal injury and worker’s compensation claims.

It can sometimes be difficult to locate medical providers who will treat patients who were injured in accidents or on the job. If the patient was injured in an accident, the physician may have to wait for payment until the personal injury case resolves. In the case of a work-related injury, the physician must by law accept payment according to the fee schedule set by the Maryland Worker’s Compensation Commission, which is usually far less than the rates paid by private insurers. Many medical providers aren’t willing to accept these conditions, so the few who will are an invaluable resource for Maryland personal injury lawyers and our clients.

One of the local medical practices willing to treat these sorts of patients has become involved in proceedings before the Maryland Board of Physicians. Some of their doctors have pending disciplinary charges, and some others have already consented to orders resolving the charges. This has attracted the attention of those in the legal community working on those sorts of cases, and has been commented on by industry bloggers.

A poll recently released by the Defense Research Institute found that an overwhelming majority of respondents found that our civil courts are fair.

Check out the DRI’s release here. Note that the headline says “41% Doubt Fairness of Civil Courts” when the article explains that 58% expressed confidence in court decisions.

There are other interesting nuggets here as well. 83% said that the side with the most money for lawyers usually wins. That’s really interesting in terms of personal injury litigation, where generally only one side has money for lawyers, and the other side only has a lawyer at all because of the existence of a contingent fee agreement.

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’m not going to 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.

In the last few years, the use of social media has increasingly become an issue in the legal field. We are seeing social media being used as evidence in civil and criminal trials. There have been recent Maryland appellate opinions on how to admit evidence of social media use.

There have also been cases involving social media use by jurors. Here in Baltimore, there was an issue in the sensational Sheila Dixon trial about jurors becoming Facebook “friends” with one another. It has now become commonplace for jurors to be instructed that they are not to discuss their jury service on social media during the trial.

Here’s at least one tip for lawyers concerned about jurors using social media: there is a way to at least try to see if there are jurors or potential jurors using Twitter from the courthouse. Bing (Microsoft’s answer to Google) has a Twitter Maps feature that allows you to type in any address, and it will show you the location of any Tweets that have recently been made in the vicinity, as long as the user has geolocation enabled. Just go to Bing Maps, type in the address, click on Map Apps, and select Twitter. Voila!

Can you believe this? A juror just left for vacation during deliberations. And then when she came back all she got was a $300 fine! This is inexcusable, especially when you consider that during the jury selection process prospective jurors are given several chances to tell the court about anything that would prevent them from serving, like a pre-planned vacation.

She should have been put in jail, at least for a day, and been assigned some community service. Fortunately the case was able to continue without a mistrial. That’s probably why the judge let her stay out of jail.

Two weeks ago I had a trial scheduled to begin on a Monday.

It was a jury trial that was set for a car accident trial to begin on an agreed date that had been selected 8 months earlier.  My client and his three witnesses — two of them experts — all cleared their schedules to make sure they were available.  I had blocked off the time on my calendar, and so did the two lawyers involved on the defense side.

The Friday before the trial was supposed to start, I received a call from the court’s assignment office.  We wouldn’t be able to begin our trial as scheduled because there was no judge available.  This put us on standby.  That meant that I could be called anytime before 1:30 p.m., and I would have an hour to get to court with my client and my witnesses, ready to begin the trial.  If I wasn’t called by 1:30, I was instructed to call back at 3:30 to see if we would be assigned the next morning.  I called my client and all of his witnesses and let them know of this development.  They were not exactly pleased.

Here is a quote I saw recently that I think applies really well to trial work:

“Don’t let a win get to your head or a loss to your heart.”– from Public Enemy’s Chuck D.

Specifically, this is from the song “He Got Game” from the movie soundtrack of the same name. One thing about Chuck D., he always has something interesting to say.

Although this blog is focused on topics related to personal injury litigation, every once in a while I see something off-topic that I feel compelled to address.

This is one of those times. The ABA Journal has a photo gallery of law-related vanity license plates (HT to Kristi Tousignant of the Daily Record). A sampling: ICNVCTU, ISUE4U, SUYAL8R, SUEYATOO, LITIG8R, the list goes on and on.

With all due respect (and yes, I mean that exactly as Ricky Bobby said it) to those who think these plates are cool, you are wrong. I feel comfortable saying this. My first reaction when I see one of these is “Haha, tool.” I do not believe I am the only person who thinks this. My research reveals that 98.76% of all people think law-related vanity plates are totally not cool. Although I made that up, I have never met a single person who thought vanity plates were cool that did not have one.

If you read this blog regularly, you know that appellate litigation is part of my practice here at Miller & Zois. I handle all of the appeals that arise out of our firm’s trial practice, and I also accept appellate referrals from other attorneys.

One of the things 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.

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