Personal injury and insurance law attorneys share their expertise in Maryland accident lawsuits, trial litigation and other legal news.

4th Circuit Strictly Applies Federal Tort Claims Act

If the need for firm compliance with the Federal Tort Claims Act was ever in doubt, a recent opinion from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals illustrates how fatal non-compliance can be.

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Applying Maryland’s Cap on Non-Economic Damages in Survival and Wrongful Death Actions

Last month, the Court of Special Appeals rejected a tortfeasor’s argument that damages awarded in a survival action and in a wrongful death action should be aggregated before Maryland’s non-economic damages cap is applied.

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After 165 Years, 1% May No Longer Bar Claim

Presently, Maryland is one of only five “contributory negligence” states, meaning that in a negligence action, a plaintiff who was in any way negligent is barred from recovery, even when the plaintiff was only “1% negligent.”  That may soon change.

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With an Injured Tot, a Release is Naught

Earlier this month, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals held that a parent may not legally bind his or her minor child to a pre-injury release of tort liability in favor of a commercial enterprise.

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The Supreme Court and Corporate Spending on Elections

With the 2012 Presidential Election quickly approaching, we’ll surely hear a lot about Citizens United, a highly controversial Supreme Court decision, in the coming months.

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was a 2010 opinion, in which the Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”) struck down the McCain-Feingold Act, a federal statute which prohibited corporations from funding broadcast communications addressing political candidates within sixty days of a general election.  SCOTUS held that corporations, like people, are protected by the First Amendment, and that because a corporation must spend money to disseminate speech, the McCain-Feingold Act violated the First Amendment.  Supporters of this polarizing decision (mostly those on the right) champion it as a victory for constitutional liberties, while its detractors (mostly those on the left) complain that it will corrupt the democratic process by allowing corporate coffers to inordinately influence elections. 

While Citizens United’s influence will be readily apparent in the 2012 presidential race, its effects are also being felt on the state level.  Last year, the Supreme Court of Montana held that Citizens United did not apply to Montana’s Corrupt Practices Act, a century-old campaign finance law that limits corporate spending on elections.  In its rationale, the Montana court cited examples in its state of the "corrupting influence of campaign contributions on elections."  Making no effort to hide its disdain for Citizens United, the Montana court referred to SCOTUS's equation of corporations to individuals as “utter nonsense.”    

The force of the Montana court’s rebuke to Citizens United was short-lived.  Last week, in American Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock, SCOTUS reversed the Montana Supreme Court’s ruling.  Holding that “there can be no serious doubt” that Citizens United applies to Montana’s campaign finance laws, SCOTUS struck down Montana’s Corrupt Practices Act. 

It looks like Citizens United is here to stay ... at least for awhile.  Four SCOTUS Justices dissented in Bullock, three of whom also dissented in Citizens United.  (The fourth dissenting Justice in Bullock, Elena Kagan, was not on the bench in 2010 when Citizens United was decided.  Justice Kagan’s predecessor, Justice John Paul Stephens, was the fourth dissenter in Citizens United.)  With SCOTUS so closely divided over a such an incendiary issue, it’s possible that the outcome of the upcoming Presidential Election – which will determine future SCOTUS appointees – will determine the fate of Citizens United.  Stay tuned.        

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