Bucking a trend in which states such as Georgia (GA) and Illinois (IL) have removed limits on monetary pain and suffering awards to people injured or killed by others’ negligence, malpractice or harmful actions such as drunk and distracted driving, the highest court in Maryland (MD) ruled to keep noneconomic damage caps in place.
Justices on the Court of Appeals of Maryland voted 6-1 to deny a request from the parents of a 5-year-old Anne Arundel boy who drowned in an apartment complex’s pool. A lower court earlier determined that the pool lacked proper safeguards and supervision to prevent the tragedy. The boy’s family won a $4M judgment against the companies who maintained the pool, but that verdict will have to come down to comply with state guidelines that limit any personal injury payouts that do not relate directly to medical, long-term care, lifetime lost wages and, when the worst happens, burial costs.
Quoting one of the defendants’ lawyers in the civil case, the Baltimore Sun reported on September 24, 2010, that Cary Silverman said, “We are glad to see that the court reaffirmed that the legislature had a good reason for ensuring that noneconomic damage awards stay within reasonable bounds.”
But, of course, what is reasonable for people found at fault for another’s serious injury, paralysis or death can often be unreasonable for the person harmed and their loved ones. It is never easy to but a specific value on someone’s health or life, but laws, juries and judges exist specifically to make doing so fair. Arbitrarily capping monetary values — as laws in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina (NC), South Carolina (SC), West Virginia (WV) and more than 30 other states do — make the system for ensuring adequate compensation for injuries and wrongful deaths unfair for plaintiffs from the word “go.”
My colleagues and I together have more than 100 years of experience representing people deserving payments because other individuals or companies caused avoidable harm. We have seen firsthand how while no amount of money can truly repair people’s lives, unfairly low payments from responsible parties make any recovery more difficult — and sometimes impossible. A few state courts are beginning to recognize this, as well. It is a shame the Maryland appeals court is not among them.