Last fall, we reported on a Maryland case involving a seriously injured soccer coach — a case that called into question the state’s contributory negligence law. As Baltimore, Maryland Personal Injury lawyers, we’re very familiar with the nuances of this law and how it can affect our clients’ cases.
The gist of the law is this: If you are injured or killed in an accident in Maryland — and you’re found to be even 1 percent at fault — your insurance claim may be denied and you may lose your accident injury case in court. That means you will not collect any compensation. (The Maryland Contributory Negligence Law applies to nearly all types of accidental injury and death cases, including motor vehicle crashes.)
Now, the Maryland High Court has upheld the contributory negligence law as it relates to the story of the injured soccer coach, first reported late last year. According to newspaper reports, Kyle Coleman, age 20, a part-time soccer coach, sustained serious head and facial injuries when a bar from a collapsed soccer goal fell on him. Coleman sued the Soccer Association of Columbia, Md., which was running the practice when he was injured.
Attorneys for the defendant argued that because the plaintiff was swinging from the goal and had allegedly smoked marijuana earlier in the day, he was not eligible for compensation.
The Baltimore Sun reported last Sept. that “…a Howard County jury found the association was at fault in Coleman’s injury because it did not properly secure the goal. But because the jury also found that Coleman was at least partly responsible for the accident, he did not receive any payout.” An attorney representing Coleman and chairman of the Maryland Association for Justice Political Action Committee reportedly called contributory negligence unfair.
The case went to the Maryland Court of Appeals. The Baltimore Sun reported this week that the high court upheld Maryland’s longstanding contributory negligence law. This is no doubt a huge disappointment for Coleman and his family, along with victims’ rights advocates in Maryland who believe the time has come for the law to change. The Sun reports:
“Judge John C. Eldridge, writing for the 5-2 majority, said the question whether to change to another model is one for the state legislature.”
Maryland adopted a contributory negligence law in 1847 — a type of law that has been decried by victims’ rights advocates as too harsh. Since then, 46 states have changed to “comparative” laws that allow judges to reduce accident victims’ compensatory damages proportionately, rather than flat-out denying claims and dismissing cases.
However The Daily Record reported that, “Now that Maryland’s highest court has put the ball squarely in its court, the General Assembly is very likely to revisit the 166-year-old doctrine of contributory negligence in its next session, Sen. Brian E. Frosh said.”
Until, if and when Maryland’s archaic contributory negligence law is re-examined and revised — or tossed out — this case is a harsh reminder that in Maryland, the odds may be stacked against the victim. Contact an experienced Maryland accident injury attorney to navigate the legal waters on your behalf. See links before for more on this story.
Related Maryland Accident Injury Attorney article:
Lawsuits and Contributory Negligence : Soccer Injury Lawsuit Could Bring Change for Accident Victims (Nov. 2012)
Maryland contributory negligence law upheld by high court
The Baltimore Sun July 9, 2013
Top court: Decision on contributory negligence must be legislature’s
The Daily Record July 9, 2013
Related Web Resource:
James Coleman vs. Soccer Association of Columbia (PDF)
In the Maryland Court of Appeals : Filed July 9, 2013