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Spring 2014
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The Defense Line: Spring 2014

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The Defense Line: A Publication From The Maryland Defense Counsel, Inc.


justiceIn re: Baltimore City Asbestos Litigation, Baltimore City Circuit Court, Case No. 24X87048500.

Robert E. Scott, Jr., Marisa A. Trasatti, Colleen K. O’Brien, and Semmes, Bowen & Semmes were granted a Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction on behalf of a New York-based gasket fabricator in ten (10) asbestos personal injury cases advanced in Baltimore City by the Plaintiffs’ firm of Napoli, Bern, Ripka, Shkolnik, LLP (“Napoli Bern”). An additional six (6) lawsuits filed against this fabricator by either the Law Offices of Peter G. Angelos, P.C., Napoli Bern, or Matthew E. Kiely, LLC, had previously been voluntarily dismissed. In these cases, the Plaintiffs alleged that they were exposed to asbestos-containing gaskets in and outside of Maryland which were fabricated by the New York-based company, and sought to hold the company liable under claims of strict liability, negligence and breach of warranty. Following submission of motions papers, supplemental motions papers, two (2) jurisdictional depositions and written discovery limited to jurisdiction, on February 20, 2014, in a bench ruling during a telephonic hearing, the Honorable John M. Glynn granted the out-of-state fabricator’s Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction. Factually significant was that the fabricator never sold any asbestos-containing products in Maryland, and further, since the early 1990’s, it had only sold non-asbestos containing products to a manufacturer that had a storage facility in Maryland. Over a ten (10) year period, the fabricator’s sales in Maryland were less than six percent of its overall annual sales. The Court specifically noted during the hearing that the Defendant may have shipped product to a customer that had a warehouse in Maryland, but he did not find that nexus significant to justify exercising jurisdiction over the Defendant.

St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co. t/u/o Interstate Brands Corp. and Richard Pellettiere v. Chrysler Group LLC, et al., Prince George’s County Circuit Court, Case No. CAL11-08775.

Michael A. Brown, Donald E. English, Matthew R. Schroll, Sydney Fairchild and Miles & Stockbridge, P.C. with Brian W. Bell, Anthony J. Monaco and Swanson, Martin & Bell, LLP obtained a defense verdict on behalf of Chrysler Group LLC in Prince George’s County Circuit Court. The case arose from an $8.5 million settlement paid by St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co. to JoAnn Reid-Fitzgerald and her husband for injuries Mrs. Reid-Fitzgerald sustained in a high-speed rear impact collision. The accident was caused by St. Paul’s insureds: Interstate Brands Corp. and its employee, Richard Pellettiere. Mr. Pellettiere fell asleep at the wheel and slammed his delivery truck into Mrs. Reid-Fitzgerald’s Dodge Dakota at 45 mph. This was Mr. Pellettiere’s fifth on-the-job sleep related accident. In light of these facts, St. Paul settled Mrs. Reid-Fitzgerald’s claims and pursued an action for contribution against Chrysler under the crashworthiness doctrine. Specifically, St. Paul alleged that the seatback in Mrs. Reid-Fitzgerald’s Dodge Dakota collapsed during the collision causing her enhanced injuries, and that Chrysler was strictly liable and/or negligent in its design of the seat. Chrysler filed a third-party complaint against Lear Corporation, the seat manufacturer, for contribution and indemnification. Prior to trial, St. Paul stipulated to Interstate Brand Corp.’s and Mr. Pellettiere’s negligence and moved to exclude all evidence relating to their conduct, which the Court denied. After a 10-day trial, the jury found that Chrysler did not owe contribution to St. Paul for its settlement of Mrs. Reid-Fitzgerald’s claims.

Peggy Fonshell Ward, of Ward & Herzog, recently achieved a defense verdict for an insurer and insurance agent in an E&O and breach of contract case. The insured had purchased property coverage for two farms and insured one barn with a limit of $300,000, with replacement cost coverage endorsement. When the barn burned, he wanted to spend $780,000 to replace it. He asserted that he had been promised “full replacement cost coverage” which did not limit his recovery to the limit of liability purchased for the barn. After two days of trial, the trial court granted the defense motion for judgment, ruling that the law could not support the insured’s claims of breach of contract and negligent misrepresentation. Other counts for constructive fraud, intentional misrepresentation, and negligence had previously been dismissed on summary judgment.

In re: Baltimore City Lead Paint Litigation, Baltimore City Circuit Court, Case Nos. 24-C-12001069LP, 24-C-12000802LP, 24-C-12001069LP.

Michael A. Brown, Michael E. Blumenfeld, Laura A. Cellucci, Amanda Kesler, Katherine A. Lawler, Lee C. Douthitt, and Miles & Stockbridge P.C. joined Barry C. Goldstein, Saamia H. Dasti, and John T. Sly of Waranch & Brown as trial counsel in defending Kennedy Krieger Institute, Inc. against allegations concerning its administration of a drug trial in the 1990s. The drug trial was held to determine the effectiveness of a drug in reducing the effects of lead exposure in children. All plaintiffs were represented by Tom Yost of Yost Legal Group and alleged several counts against Kennedy Krieger for allegedly contributing to their lead poisoning and related injuries. The first trial in April of 2013 involved allegations on behalf of a brother and sister. The defense successfully obtained summary judgment on all of the sister’s claims against Kennedy Krieger. After a four week trial before The Honorable Charles Peters in Baltimore City Circuit Court, the defense obtained directed verdicts on five of the brother’s six counts against Kennedy Krieger, including a count with punitive damages. On the sole remaining count of negligence, the jury returned a defense verdict within two hours of deliberation, finding that Kennedy Krieger did not breach its duty. In the second trial, in October of 2013, the defense successfully argued for summary judgment on three of the seven counts against Kennedy Krieger, and struck Plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages. After a three-week trial before The Honorable Melissa Phinn in Baltimore City Circuit Court, the jury returned a defense verdict on all remaining counts within 48 minutes of deliberation. In the third case, in December of 2013, again before Judge Peters, the defense was able to exclude a key expert for the Plaintiff and obtained a defense verdict on all counts after a three week jury trial.

Annual Meeting and Crab Feast: June 18, 2014

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