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Maryland Tort Claims Act Lawsuits

The Maryland Tort Claims (“MTCA”) Act requires that personal injury victims suing the State of Maryland submit a written claim to the Treasurer or designee of the treasurer within one year after the injury to person or property that is the basis of the claim.

To comply with the Maryland Tort Claims Act, a plaintiff must serve written notice upon the State Treasurer, or a designee of the State Treasurer, within one year following the injury.” See Md. State Government Code Ann. §12-101 to §12-110.

One Year Rule

The MTCA establishes procedural requirements that are preconditions to filing a suit that is the result of a Maryland state employee’s negligence. If the victim does not fulfill these sometimes confusing conditions, sovereign immunity is not waived and the trial judge will dismiss the case before trial.

The most important procedural requirement under the MTCA is notice. A notice must be given in one year for claims arising on or after Oct 1, 2015. (For claims before that date, the notice was 180 days.)

This one-year rule to provide notice when filing a claim against the State of Maryland is not as strictly enforced as the statute of limitations. There are instances where a Maryland court will that while plaintiffs did not satisfy the “actual compliance” standard of the MTCA, there was “substantial compliance” sufficient to satisfy this notice provision.

So while there may have been technically defective compliance with a statutory requirement, the situation and the notice that was provided was sufficient compliance with the MTCA requirements to allow the lawsuit to proceed.

But please do not assume that your compliance will be considered substantial compliance.  Too many victims and even personal injury lawyers in Maryland do exactly this.  Remember that substantial compliance is in the eye of the beholder.

Here is an example.  Do you think being a few days late is substantial compliance? While logic might call it substantial compliance, Maryland courts do not.

What Is the Purpose of the Maryland Tort Claims Act?

The purpose of the Tort Claims Act’s immunity is to insulate the State employees generally from tort liability if their actions are within the course of employment and without malice or gross negligence.” Lee v. Cline, 384 Md. 245, 260 (2004).

What Are the Exceptions to Employee Immunity Under the Maryland Tort Claims Act?

Immunity under the MTCA can be defeated by proof of malice for gross negligence. So if the employee or official intentionally performed an act without legal justification or excuse, but with evil intent or with complete recklessness, then there is a path around MTCA immunity. For example, state employees accused of false imprisonment or assault and battery cannot hide behind the MTCA.

What Should Be in the Notice for a Maryland Tort Claims Act Claim?

A Maryland Tort Claims Act notice must be in writing. The notice should state generally the basis of the claim and the underlying facts (date, place, parties involved, and so forth). In § 12-107, the statute lays out exactly what it wants:

  1. a concise statement of facts that sets forth the nature of the claim, including the date and place of the alleged tort;
  2. demand specific damages;
  3. state the name and address of each party;
  4. state the name, address, and telephone number of counsel for the claimant, if any; and
  5. be signed by the claimant, or the legal representative or counsel for the claimant.

Will the court nix the case of something like not having a settlement demand in your letter? Probably not. The Maryland Court of Appeals has held that literal compliance with § 12-106 and §12-107 of the State Government Article is not required. But there is not a lot of wisdom in tempting fate, either.

How Does the Discovery Rule Work for the MTCA Notice Requirement?

The discovery rule extends the statutes of limitation in civil cases. This rule does not apply to this notice requirement. The Maryland Court of Appeals had mostly pushed back on good cause exceptions to the notice requirement. So a court may allow imperfect notice, no notice at all is likely to be fatal to your filing a claim against the state of Maryland. (This is a good case that explains the Maryland Court of Special Appeals’ thinking.)

Is There a Cap on Damages Under the Maryland Tort Claims Act?

In 2015, the Maryland General Assembly doubled the damage cap in the Maryland Tort Claims Act was to $400,000 per victim, $800,000 per incident. The effective date of this cap increase was October 1, 2015.

Is this still an unfair cap on claims against the State of Maryland and its employees? Absolutely. How do you tell a spouse or parent that their loss is worth only $400,000? But it was a hard fought win in Annapolis to get this cap increased and hopefully they will increase the MTCA pain and suffering cap in the future to match Maryland’s general damage cap.

Is There a Cap on Attorneys’ Fees for Maryland Tort Claims Act Cases?

Under the Maryland Tort Claims Act, personal injury attorneys representing plaintiffs against the state and its employees must charge a reduced fee. The maximum fee is 20% of a settlement or 25% of a judgment.

To be sure, this is good news for some victims. Is this law written to help personal injury victims? Of course not. The practical effect is that many victims cannot find a lawyer willing to represent them.

Who Is Covered Under the Maryland Tort Claims Act?

The state of Maryland and state employees or officials who are paid by the Central Payroll Bureau in the Office of the Comptroller of the Treasury are covered if they commit a tort in their function as a state employee. The statute also covers employees or officials, including:

  • Maryland Transportation Authority
  • Maryland Stadium Authority
  • Maryland Environmental Service
  • Overseas programs of the University College of the University System of Maryland
  • Maryland Economic Development Corporation
  • Maryland Technology Development Corporation
  • Maryland African American Museum Corporation
  • Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund (also calling themselves Maryland Auto Insurance)
  • Maryland Health and Higher Educational Facilities Authority
  • Maryland Agricultural and Resource-Based Industry Development Corporation
  • Somers Cove Marina Commission
  • Maryland Underground Facilities Damage Prevention Authority
  • Maryland Clean Energy Center
  • A person who is a member of a State board, commission, or similar State entity or is providing a service to or for the State
  • Students in state schools who are providing services to third parties in the course of participation in an approved clinical training or academic program
  • A sheriff or deputy sheriff of a county or Baltimore City (the cap on police brutality cases is now under increased scrutiny post-George Floyd)
  • An employee of a county who is assigned to a local department of social services
  • A State’s Attorney of a county or Baltimore City, or an employee of an office of a State’s Attorney
  • Members of the board of license commissioners of a county or Baltimore City appointed under the provisions of the Alcoholic Beverages Article, or an employee of a board of license commissioners
  • Member of a local board of elections, or an employee of a local board of elections
  • Aa judge of a circuit court of a county or Baltimore City, or an employee of a circuit court
  • A judge of an orphans’ court of a county or Baltimore City, or an employee of an orphans’ court
  • To the extent of a nonprofit organization’s activities as a third party payee, and to the extent the nonprofit organization has no other insurance for this purpose, a nonprofit organization that has been approved by the Department of Human Resources or its designee to serve as a third-party payee for purposes of providing temporary cash assistance, transitional assistance, or child-specific benefits to Family Investment Program recipients
  • A student, faculty, or staff member of an institution of higher education who is providing a service under the Family Investment Program

Maryland Tort Claim Act Settlements and Verdicts

These are sample Maryland Tort Claims Act settlements and verdicts.  Many of these underscore the unfairness of MTCA’s damage cap.
  • 2019, Baltimore City: $25,000,000 Verdict. A detention center inmate was severely beaten by gang members. He sustained right-sided paralysis and limited left-sided mobility. The man alleged that the prison guards’ failure to intervene caused permanent injuries. After two hours of deliberation, the Baltimore City jury found the State of Maryland liable. They awarded $25,000,000. The award was subject to the Maryland Tort Claims Act’s damages cap. The jurors are not told about the cap so they believe they are awarding $25 million.
  • 2012, Prince George’s County: $5,630,000 Verdict. A man failed to appear on time for a hearing on criminal charges filed against him. The judge issued a bench warrant. Ten minutes later, the man arrived. The judge recalled the warrant. They ultimately dismissed the charges. One week later, a National Crime Information Center (NCIC) employee entered the warrant into their database. The Prince George’s County sheriff’s office failed to inform the NCIC that it was recalled. Two years later, the man was pulled over for license plate issues. A warrant check mistakenly showed that the warrant was active. The man was jailed for five days. He suffered anxiety, emotional distress, and humiliation. The man’s reputation as a DJ was destroyed. He also lost his bank customer service representative job. The man alleged that the sheriff’s office’s actions ruined his livelihood. He claimed they improperly managed the warrant system. A Prince George’s County jury awarded $5,630,000. The defense moved for a new trial. They argued that the Maryland Tort Claim Act’s cap on damages also applied to this case (which was $200,000 at that time)
  • 2009, Montgomery County: $560,000 Verdict. A woman was driving southbound on Route 29. She was struck by a northbound driver who swerved to avoid colliding into a WMATA bus. The woman suffered a left pelvis fracture, a heel fracture, and wrist crush injuries. She alleged that the tortfeasor and bus driver’s negligence caused her injuries. The woman claimed the tortfeasor excessively sped and made excessive lane changes. She also claimed the WMATA bus driver failed to yield the right-of-way. The Montgomery County jury ruled in the woman’s favor. They awarded $560,000. The award was subject to the Maryland Tort Claims Act’s damages cap.
  • 2009, Baltimore City: $24,366 Verdict. A University of Baltimore student fell near the Maryland Avenue Garage’s fifth-floor elevators. She suffered an ankle fracture and mental anguish. The woman alleged that the State of Maryland failed to maintain safe premises. The State of Maryland denied liability. It argued the assumption of risk and contributory negligence. A Baltimore City jury awarded $24,366.

Hiring a Maryland Tort Claims Act Lawyer

If you have suffered an injury in an automobile or truck accident or as the result of a negligent act of a government employee and want to consider a lawsuit or a claim for an out-of-court settlement, call one of our lawyers at 800-553-8082 or get a FREE no-obligation Internet consultation.

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