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Advocacy In Annapolis 2010

Maryland Association for Justice, Inc. Advocacy in Annapolis2010

Due to the efforts of our Maryland legislators, as well as our legislative committee and members, MAJ had a successful 2010 Maryland Legislative Session. MAJ’s legislative team reviewed and lobbied close to 120 bills. Te Session saw MAJ obtain passage of legislation that increases the mandatory coverage for automobile insurance, initiates a ballot referendum to increase the amount in controversy for a jury trial, as well as legislation protecting a client’s PIP coverage. Te Session also saw MAJ defeat many significant immunity proposals, unconscionable efforts to deprive victims of their right to noneconomic damages, and the seemingly never ending efforts to enact further medical malpractice tort reform. Te following summarizes the legislation of the most significance to Maryland’s trial attorneys.

I. Auto Negligence/Auto Insurance

HB 825 and SB 1025 Vehicle Laws – Required Security – Minimum Amounts. Tese bills increased the minimum amount of required auto insurance coverage to $30,000/$60,000. HB 825 was sponsored by Delegate Charles Barkley and 17 co-sponsors and SB 1025 was sponsored by Senator Garagiola. HB 825 was given a favorable report by a vote of 19 to 3 in the House Economic Matters Committee, much to the dismay of the insurance lobby. Efforts were then accelerated by the opposition to defeat the bill on the floor of the House with a particularly intense lobbying effort directed at the Black Caucus. Due to a strong lobbying response by MAJ - in-person meetings by Billy Murphy and Wayne Curry with most of the members of the Black Caucus - and the brilliant floor leadership of Committee Chairman Dereck Davis, the House passed the bill 97 to 36. Te bills were assigned jointly to the Senate Finance and the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committees. Tis required MAJ to present its case twice before two separate committees and to lobby for a favorable vote from both committees. Te insurance industry’s next ploy was to enlist the support of several advocate organizations for the poor. Te representatives of these various groups argued against the bill on the basis that these are bad economic times in the State, and the required increase in coverage would increase the cost of auto insurance thus adversely affecting the ability of many poor drivers to be able to afford auto insurance. Tey argued that this would result in a greater number of uninsured drivers. Despite this increased lobbying effort HB 825 received a favorable report from the Finance Committee by a vote of 6 to 5, and a favorable vote from the Judicial Proceedings Committee by a vote of 8 to 3. Te bill was once again subjected to a fierce floor fight during which 13 amendments were offered by the opponents to the bill, all of which were defeated. Te bill then passed the Senate by a vote of 27 to 20. Senator Garagiola was the floor leader on the bill, and was superb. On May 4th

the Governor signed HB 825, and it will go into effect on January 1, 2011. HB 666

Vehicle Laws – Uninsured Motorists – Waiver of Right to Noneconomic Damages. Tis bill, commonly referred to as “no pay/no play”, would have barred the recovery of noneconomic damages by an injured owner/driver of an uninsured motor vehicle. Te bill was defeated by a 15 to 4 vote in the House Economic Matters Committee.

HB 1073 and SB 704

Insurance – Coordination of Benefits - Health Insurance and Personal Injury Protection. Tese two bills reverse the effect of the Court of Appeals decision in October 2009 in the MAMSI v. Wu. Te bills prohibit an HMO contract or a health insurance policy from containing a provision that requires PIP benefits to be paid before receiving benefits under the contract or policy. Te bills apply to contracts issued or renewed on or after October 1, 2010. Te bills have been signed by the Governor.

HB 144

Insurance Counsel Division in the Office of the Attorney General – Repeal. Tis bill would have abolished the Peoples Insurance Counsel. MAJ strongly opposed the bill and it was defeated in Committee by a vote of 15 to 7.

II. Legislation Affecting the Judicial System and Procedures.

SB 118/SB 119 and HB 434/436

Courts – Jury Trials in Civil Actions – Amount in Controversy. Tese bills place on the ballot for November 2010 a referendum to raise the amount in controversy required for a civil jury trial to $15,000. Any bill that establishes a ballot referendum must pass by a “super majority”, that is, it must receive a vote of 60% of the entire membership of both the House and the Senate. SB 118 and SB 119 were the bills that were enacted. Te Constitutional amendment legislation received a vote of 32 to 13 (68%) in the Senate and a vote of 108 to 30 (76.6%) in the House. Tis was a tremendous victory for MAJ.

Maryland Association for Justice, Inc. • 6240 Old Dobbin Lane, Suite 100 • Columbia, Maryland 21045 • (410) 872-0990 •

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