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


justiceCraig L. Russell v. Call/D, LLC; District of Columbia Court of Appeals No. 13-CV-1177

In an opinion decided April 15, 2015, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals affirmed an October 15, 2013 Order of the Superior Court granting summary judgment in favor of the premises owner, Call/D, LLC. Susan Smith, Thomas Bernier and Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney, Ltd. obtained the summary judgment Order in favor of Call/D, who had been sued by Plaintiff Craig L. Russell on the basis that he had allegedly contracted Legionnaires’ disease due to Call/D’s negligent management of an apartment building.

In June 2012, Plaintiff brought his lawsuit in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia against Defendant Call/D, the owner of the apartment building in which Plaintiff resided, asserting “negligence — premises liability” and “strict liability/negligent failure to warn” claims based upon allegations that Russell had contracted the bacterial pneumonia known as Legionnaires’ disease due to his exposure to legionella bacteria present in standing water in a vacant apartment within Defendant’s building. Plaintiff had no testing that proved that legionella was ever present in the premises. Instead, Plaintiff proffered the testimony of pulmonologist, Steven Zimmet, M.D., who testified that it was his opinion that the vacant apartment was the source of Russell’s exposure to the bacteria.

Following extensive discovery, the defense challenged Dr. Zimmet’s qualifications to offer a source opinion as well as his factual basis for the conclusion that the water on the apartment floor contained legionella. Superior Court Judge Natalia Combs Greene granted the motion precluding the admission of Dr. Zimmet’s opinions and then granted summary judgment, finding as a matter of law that there was no evidence to support any finding that Call/D’s premises was the source of Plaintiff’s infection. Plaintiff filed an appeal which was argued on October 21, 2014. Phyllis D. Thompson, Associate Judge, writing for the Court, affirmed the Superior Court’s Orders, specifically finding that Judge Combs Greene did not abuse her discretion in precluding Dr. Zimmet’s opinions.

IDS Property Casualty Insurance Company v. Glenmont Air Conditioning & Heating, Inc. et al. Case Number: 8:13-cv-02238-TDC

Edward J. “Bud” Brown of the Law Office of Edward J. Brown, LLC obtained a defense verdict for his client, an energy auditor, wrongly accused of negligently causing a house fire in Adelphi, Maryland. The case focused on the supervision and performance of post-audit insulation efforts, particularly the presence vel non of recessed light covers. The fire occurred in an older home, and the recessed light at or near the area of the origin of the blaze sustained substantial damage, which prevented effective identification of same. Plaintiff was the carrier for a very nice elderly couple, and the light fixture in question was utilizing a heat lamp bulb in order to provide extra warmth to the homeowners’ master bathroom. The cause of the fire was hotly contested, with competing expert testimony regarding the covers, as well as alternative explanations, including potential electrical issues. Judge Theodore Chuang presided over the jury trial in the Greenbelt Division of the United States District Court.

Peggy Fonshell Ward, Ward & Herzog, received a defense verdict in the Circuit Court for Harford County in a case involving a claim of assault and battery. The Plaintiff asserted that his neighbor had assaulted him during an encounter regarding a barking dog. The defendant neighbor claimed that he was merely defending himself against the advances and actions of the plaintiff, who had a .22 blood alcohol content during the interaction. Plaintiff had severe brain injury from a subdural hematoma occurring when he fell and his head hit the ground.

Peggy Fonshell Ward, Ward & Herzog, successfully persuaded the Court of Special Appeals that her client insurer was the excess insurer in a dispute with another insurer who claimed the companies were co-primary. Two insurers both insured a truck involved in a serious accident. Insurer B claimed that it was excess because the truck was owned by Insurer A’s named insured and the respective “other insurance” clauses made the owner’s policy primary. The Circuit Court for Wicomico County agreed with Insurer A that the two were co-primary at 50% each. The Court of Special Appeals reversed and ruled that Insurer B was correct and that Insurer A was primary and Insurer B excess.

Andrew Nichols of Rollins, Smalkin, Richards and Mackie obtained a defense verdict after a two-day jury trial in the Circuit Court for Harford County. Plaintiff, a unit owner of a condominium, slipped and fell on the sidewalk in front of a building in the condominium community during the two snow storms that created “Snowmagedon” in 2010. Plaintiff sued the condominium association, property management company and snow removal contractor, alleging negligence. Nichols, representing the condominium association and property management company presented evidence that while the condominium association had notice of the potential for ice formation in the area where Plaintiff fell, there had been no prior falls in that area, and that Plaintiff had similar notice regarding the potential for ice formation.

After 22 minutes of deliberation, the jury returned with a verdict, finding no negligence on the part of the defendants.

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Maryland Defense Counsel, Inc.
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Lutherville, MD 21093
Phone 410-560-3895
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