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Spring 2016
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The Defense Line: Spring 2016

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


justiceStanley Souranis v. Baltimore Ravens, L.P., et al., Baltimore City Circuit Court, Case No.: 24-C-13-008256 - Rollins, Smalkin, Richards & Mackie, L.L.C. Wins Motion for Summary Judgment in favor of the Baltimore Ravens in a premises liability action

James R. Andersen and Catherine A. Dickinson recently obtained summary judgment on behalf of the Baltimore Ravens in a premises liability action filed in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleged that he slipped and fell on food located on a set of steps in the concourse of M&T Bank Stadium prior to a Ravens game. Plaintiff sought to hold the Baltimore Ravens and the Maryland Stadium Authority liable under claims of negligence. Co-Defendant Maryland Stadium Authority adopted the Baltimore Ravens’ motion for summary judgment. On August 26, 2015, the Hon. Lynn Stewart Mays granted the Ravens’ Motion for Summary Judgment, holding that there was no “time on the floor” evidence as to how long the food had been on the steps to support Plaintiff’s claims that the Ravens had actual and/or constructive notice of the hazard. Counsel for the Ravens relied on applicable Maryland case law to support its argument that the Ravens were not on notice of the hazard, including Burwell v. Easton Mem’l Hosp., 83 Md. App. 684, 577 A.2d 394 (1990) and Moulden v. Greenbelt Servs., Inc., 239 Md. 229, 210 A.2d 724 (1965), both cases in which the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland and the Court of Appeals of Maryland, respectively, held that reliable “time on the floor” evidence is essential in a slip and fall case when there is no other evidence of how long the food had been on the floor.

John Murphy and Gretchen Slater of Walker, Murphy & Nelson, LLP secured a defense verdict on behalf of a nurse anesthetist in a week long medical malpractice trial in the Circuit Court for Kent County. The Plaintiffs alleged that the anesthesia team failed to conduct a proper Rapid Sequence Induction (RSI) and, as a result thereof, the patient aspirated during urgent surgery for a colonic obstruction. In addition to disputing liability, medical causation was also in dispute. While all parties agreed the patient developed Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), the defense claimed that the patient's ARDS was the result of his pre-existing peritonitis. Damages included in excess of $100,000.00 in medical expenses and permanent lung damage including years of chronic pleural effusions. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the defense after 45 minutes of deliberations.

On August 31, 2015, the Circuit Court for Montgomery County issued a ruling upholding the District Court on appeal, with an Opinion that should be of note to all personal injury attorneys in Maryland. Simply put, the Court ruled that following a failure to comply with the 60 day requirement under Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings, §§ 10-104 and 10-105, a Court may find insufficient evidence to proceed to trial, and dismiss the case with prejudice.

In the case, Iraheta v. Cuollo, et. al., Case No. 9051-D, the facts giving rise to the lawsuit were unremarkable. However, during the discovery phase, Plaintiff failed to disclose the required medical records as required by §10-104, until 38 days prior to trial. In arguing for the admissibility, the Plaintiff claimed that despite missing the deadline, the defendant had ample time to review the records, and that Plaintiff had made a “good faith” effort at service by attempting to fax the bills and records. Plaintiff argued that their efforts amounted to substantial compliance. The District Court Administrative Judge, Eugene Wolf, rejected this argument and dismissed the case.

The Honorable Anne Albright had the case on appeal. In her opinion, she found that §§ 10-104 and 10-105 make no mention of substantial compliance, and therefore could not be a basis for finding abuse of discretion. Instead, the Court upheld the District Court’s plain language interpretation of the statute, and required compliance with the 60 day deadline.
The District Court also denied plaintiff’s request for a continuance pursuant to Maryland Rule 3-508, which grants broad discretion to the trial judge in determining when and where to grant continuances. In his ruling, the Judge Wolfe concluded that the request for a continuance was another attempt to soften the time requirements of §§10-104 and 10-105, and for the same reason would not grant a dismissal without prejudice. Following the striking of the medical bills and records, Judge Wolfe granted Plaintiffs request for dismissal, doing so with prejudice. Judge Albright subsequently ruled that Plaintiff’s request for dismissal without prejudice foreclosed any argument by Plaintiff that Plaintiff should have been allowed to proceed to trial on non-economic damages.

These ruling demonstrate a number of complexities and issues that can arise during litigation. Primarily, all timing requirements when utilizing §10-104 and 10-105 are very important. The 60 day requirement is a hard deadline, and the courts are required to strike the notice for non-compliance. Because these rules are used as a cost-saving shortcut, the courts may not allow any sidesteps. Complete compliance was required here, and was not difficult. Further, Rules governing service are also important. Service cannot be completed by using a fax machine, for the very reason that occurred in this case – transmissions are unreliable, and therefore insufficient. In sum, this procedural shortcut carries with it significant risks.

Annual Meeting and Crab Feast: June 17, 2015

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