Previous month:
February 2006
Next month:
April 2006

When can a rearender be the proximate cause of a suicide nine years later?

In Sindler v. Litman, No. 1838, Sept. Term, 2004 (Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, Dec. 2, 2005), the plaintiffs originally brought an action for personal injuries based on a motor vehicle accident that occurred on Dec. 7, 1994.  It was a rear-end accident, in which the plaintiff's Cadillac had about $6000 in damages, and the plaintiff was seen but not admitted at a hospital afterwards.

The action was filed in 1997, and in the Court's words, "the pre-trial process was very lengthy" and the case was not tried until September, 2004. However, prior to trial, in July, 2004, the plaintiff driver committed suicide. Two weeks later, her husband filed an amended complaint to include wrongful death and survival claims. The trial court entered summary judgment in favor of the defendants with respect to the wrongful death claim.

The jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff with respect to the survival and loss of consortium claims. Then the trial court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the entire case based on discovery violations.

On appeal, the Court affirmed the trial court's rulings.

The Court adopted the general rule, and held that “one may not recover damages in negligence for the suicide of another. The act of suicide is generally considered to be a deliberate, intentional, and intervening act which precludes a finding that a given defendant is, in fact, responsible for the decedent’s death.”

While there are exceptions, here, the plaintiff's psychiatric expert did not opine that the decedent was insane or otherwise was in a mental state such that she did not realize the nature and risk of her act of suicide or that she had an uncontrollable impulse or anything sufficiently close to the Restatement test to create a jury question.


In Maryland, No Automatic Sanction For Lack of Expert Report When Certificate of Qualified Expert Is Filed

In Osborne v. Walzer, No. 2457, Sept. Term, 2004 (Court of Special Appeals of Maryland), the Court held that it is not necessary to attach an attesting expert's report to the Certificate of Qualified Expert report that is necessary, under Md. Code sec. 3-2A-04(b), for a medical malpractice action before the Health Claims Arbitration Office.   

The court reasoned that " There is simply no language in § 3-2A-04(b)(3) that requires a claim to be dismissed if the expert’s report is not filed with the expert’s certificate or if the report was not otherwise filed within ninety days of the complaint."  Thus, there is no automatic penalty of dismissal for failure to attach the expert's report. 

However, the Court noted that the trial court may deal decisively with a delinquent report, for example by dismissing the complaint if no report is filed, or by setting a deadline for the filing of the report.


Flood insurance more widely purchased in New Orleans than believed

Nola.com has a good update as to how flood insurance is playing out in New Orleans.  Turns out New Orleans residents were pretty smart, two-thirds purchased it.

"Two out of three New Orleanians carried flood insurance -- 67 percent -- compared with a national rate of about 5 percent. "

What's this mean in terms of dollars?  "By Feb. 22, Louisiana residents had received $12 billion in flood insurance payments for claims related to Katrina, nearly as much as all the flood claims before Katrina paid by the government since the National Flood Insurance Program was created in 1968."

In Jefferson parish, 84% of the homes had flood insurance.


State Farm goes for jugular in suits by Sen. Lott, and Representative Taylor

State Farm has filed motions to dismiss the lawsuits filed by Senator Trent Lott and his wife, and Representative Gene Taylor and his wife.  These motions have been strenuously opposed by the Scruggs law firm.   State Farm's counsel and The Scruggs Law Firm are essentially filing the same briefs in each of the cases.

To me the argument that the flood exclusion in the State Farm policy does not apply because Hurrican Katrina resulted in a "storm surge", not a flood, doesn't pass the laugh test.  But you be the judge.  Download state_farm_brief.pdf ; Download trent_lott_brief.pdf ; Download state_farm_reply_brief.pdf ; Download trott_surreply.pdf ; Download amicus_brief.pdf

However, there are other issues, and State Farm's motions to dismiss -- which are really motions for summary judgment -- are probably premature on some of the other issues.

Continue reading "State Farm goes for jugular in suits by Sen. Lott, and Representative Taylor" »