On Monday, September 10, 2012 Bruce Plaxen of Plaxen & Adler argued before the Maryland Court of Appeals, Maryland’s highest court, to change Maryland’s negligence law for the benefit of people injured by the negligence of another. Maryland currently has the contributory negligence rule, where a person who is injured through the negligence of another is completely barred from recovering damages if the injured person contributed to their own injury, even if only slightly. Contributory negligence was a popular rule in the early 1800’s, when liability insurance was illegal and courts wanted to protect new industries like the railroads. Since the early twentieth century however, the doctrine has come to be viewed as too harsh and not suitable for modern times. This is evident in the fact that 46 states have abandoned the doctrine for comparative negligence.
Plaxen & Adler argued to the Court of Appeals that Maryland should join these 46 other states and adopt comparative negligence. Comparative negligence allows a person who contributed to their injury to recover damages against the person that harmed them; their recovery is just reduced by their proportion of fault. This doctrine is effective in meeting the goals of the civil justice system, which is to compensate the victim and deter wrongful behavior. Plaxen & Adler argued to the Court of Appeals that contributory negligence does not meet either of these goals, as the victim is left uncompensated and the negligent party escapes being held accountable.
The case argued by Plaxen & Adler is Coleman v. Soccer Association of Columbia, and was brought to the Court of Appeals for the purpose of changing Maryland’s negligence law. In the case, a young assistant coach named Kyle Coleman jumped up and grabbed the cross bar of a soccer goal that was negligently left unanchored by the soccer association during a practice. Because the goal was unanchored, it tipped over and fell on Kyle’s face, fracturing bones which required surgery to repair the damage by screwing three titanium plates into Kyle’s face. The soccer association knew of the serious danger posed by unanchored goals, and the jury found that they were negligent in failing to anchor the goal. However, the jury also found that Kyle contributed to his injury by grabbing the crossbar, and therefore he was found contributorily negligent and barred from recovering compensation from the soccer association. Such a situation, where the injured person receives no compensation and the wrongdoer is not held responsible, is contrary to the goals of the civil justice system, and is why Plaxen & Adler argued to change Maryland’s law to comparative negligence.
Plaxen & Adler understands that when you’ve been injured, you have special needs. That is why we only handle personal injury cases, so you know your case is being handled by an experienced and dedicated personal injury attorney. If you’ve been injured by the negligence of another, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Plaxen & Adler today.