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Advocacy In Annapolis 2010 HB 1509


Judgments - Appeals – Supercedeas Bond. Tis bill would have set the maximum amount that the courts may require for a supercedeas bond at $200,000,000 for cigarette manufacturers who participated in the Master Settlement Agreement. Tis bill, which has been introduced many times in various forms over the past 10 + years, is supported by the Altria Group, formerly known as the Phillip Morris Companies. Te bill received a hearing in the Judiciary Committee, but never received a vote, and the bill failed.


III. Legislation Providing Immunity from Liability, Lowering the Standard of Care, Limiting Private Causes of Action


Again one of the major accomplishments of MAJ in 2010 was the defeat of many bills intended to limit or bar our clients’ rights to sue for the wrongful acts of others.


1) Civil Immunity Legislation


17 bills were introduced which, as originally drafted, would have granted immunity to, or limited the liability of, wrongdoers for the injuries they inflict on others. Among the proposals were:


a) Te negligence inflicted by representatives of the Washington County Community Action Council (HB 397) as well as a specified nonprofit entity in Washington County (HB 977) would have been brought under the Local Government Tort Claims Act (LGTCA). Both bills were defeated;


b) HB 671 and SB 553 would have given the physicians in Garrett County protection under the Maryland Tort Claims Act. Again both bills were defeated;


c) Tree bills that specifically restricted medical malpractice cases were defeated (see below for detailed analysis of these bills);


d) Five bills granting immunity for the acts of home and business owners committed in defending their property from burglary etc were introduced, 4 of which were defeated. SB 411 (which basically codifies the common law doctrine and grants the court discretion to award attorney fees and costs) was passed;


e) Health care providers and employees of educational institutions would have been granted full immunity for treatment, or failure to treat, a student athlete receiving head trauma. Tese bills failed;


(f ) Tree bills were introduced to expand the existing immunity provided to correctional facilities, their health care providers and employees for dispensing medications to prisoners with mental health issues upon their release. One of these measures passed, expanding current immunity protections currently given to physicians within the Department of Corrections to include physicians, employees etc. of not only the Department but also local correctional facilities; and finally


3) HB 907 and SB 531


Civil Actions – Limitation of Actions – Land Surveyors. Tese cross- filed bills reduced the period of limitations for an error in a land survey from 15 years to 10 years. MAJ had successfully fought to defeat this legislation for approximately 10 years, and this year the support on the respective committees was too overwhelming to defeat the bills, which passed and have been signed.


IV. Medical Malpractice Legislation


SB769 and HB 622 Health Care Malpractice – Noneconomic Damages. Tis cross- filed proposal would have repealed the limitation on the cap on noneconomic damages for medical malpractice actions involving wrongful death and survivor claims imposed during the 2004 Special Session called by then Governor Ehrlich. Neither bill received a vote in committee, and both failed.


SB 358


Health Care Malpractice – Expression of Regret or Apology – Inadmissibility. Tese bills would have made an admission of fault contained in an apology or expression of regret inadmissible in a medical malpractice action. MAJ was successful in “bottling up” SB 358 in the Senate Committee, and the proposal failed.


HB 1157


Health Care Malpractice – Limitation on Noneconomic Damages. Tis bill, which was defeated in committee by a vote of 15 to 6, would have reduced the maximum amount of noneconomic damages that could be awarded in a medical malpractice case to $500,000 beginning October 1, 2010, with a $15,000 annual increase beginning October 1, 2011.


HB 1166


Health Care Malpractice – Awards and Judgments – Periodic Payments. Tis bill would have imposed the grossly inequitable


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g) A bill granting civil immunity to the broadcast media for negligence in disseminating an amber, silver or other emergency alert received favorable votes in both the House and Senate Committees (although with different language) but failed to pass due to procedural maneuvers.


2) Standard of Care Legislation


Bills were introduced that proposed to establish “Good Faith” or honesty in fact, as the acceptable standard of care for the “prudent” management for banks, trustees and others acting under a power of attorney, as well as persons acting under an anatomical gift directive. Establishing good faith as the standard of care would have been not only ill advised in the contexts of these bills, but would have set a potentially disastrous precedent. Te Power of Attorney bills were amended to strike the good faith standard, and restore the standard of care under current law. Te Maryland Revised Anatomical Gift Act, which also would have granted complete immunity to an organ donor or their estate, was defeated.


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