Contributory Liability Is an Increasingly Outdated Clause

Law Firm Newswire



Brunswick, GA (Law Firm Newswire) September 5, 2012 – For the past decade in Maryland, plaintiffs have been barred from recovering medical liability damages if they were found to have contributed to their injury.

All of that could change, as Maryland’s high court has agreed to examine that state’s contributory liability clause, which states that parties found even partly responsible for being harmed may not collect damages from another culpable party.

The legal dispute prompting the examination started when a Maryland-based assistant soccer coach swung from a goal post, which then fell on him, causing multiple facial injuries. He sued the local soccer association, claiming that representatives failed to properly inspect and secure the goal post and failed to warn him about the potential danger of swinging from it.

In 2011, jurors found in favor of the plaintiff, deciding that the soccer association’s negligence caused his injuries. However, they also found that the plaintiff’s actions did contribute to his accident. Maryland has a contributory negligence clause, which prevented the plaintiff from receiving any award.

During the plaintiff’s appeal, his attorney argued that contributory negligence is an “antiquated doctrine” and should be changed to comparative negligence, which would allow jurors to decide the level of responsibility of each party and then allocate the appropriate amount of liability to each side. The Court of Appeals of Maryland has agreed to review the case, although a date for oral arguments has not yet been scheduled.

“What we tend to see when contributory negligence is applied is unfair verdicts,” said Brunswick personal injury attorney Nathan Williams. “Comparative negligence, on the other hand, is a way to match responsibly and fault. For example, the plaintiff could be considered 15 percent at fault, while the soccer association is deemed 85 percent liable. The damage award would be adjusted or reduced, depending on the level of responsibility.”

Currently, the contributory negligence clause is used in Alabama, the District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia, while other states apply comparative negligence. Meanwhile, physicians argue that uprooting the law would allow patients to recover significant damages, even when their own lack of compliance aided their outcome.

Nathan Williams is a Brunswick divorce attorney, Brunswick personal injury lawyer, Brunswick criminal defense attorney and Brunswick DUI lawyer in Southeast Georgia. Visit or call 1.912.264.0848.

The Williams Litigation Group
5 St. Andrews Court
Brunswick, GA 31520
Phone: 912.264.0848
Toll Free: 877.307.4537
Fax: 912-264-6299

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