Md. high court to weigh damages cap

By John O'Brien | Feb 3, 2010

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Legal Newsline) - Maryland's highest court will soon hear a case challenging the state's cap on non-economic damages.

An Anne Arundel County jury awarded $2 million to the parents of a child who drowned in a pool, though the award was reduced to $1,002,500 to comply with the state's cap of $725,000 in personal injury cases.

It is the first time the issue of the cap, established in 1986, has heard by the Maryland Court of Appeals. Oral arguments are scheduled for April 2.

Several tort reform and business organizations recently filed an amicus brief in support of DRD Pool Services and the cap. The brief says caps on non-economic damages are needed because the awards are "highly subjective and inherently unpredictable."

"It is clear that placing fair upper limits on what has become the largest element of tort expenses makes Maryland a more business-friendly state," the brief says.

"Maryland law provides needed predictability and certainty as to liability exposure. This Court should respect the General Assembly's public policy judgment to rationally balance such predictability and certainty with fair compensation."

The trial judge did not allow the jury to consider compensation for 5-year-old Connor Freed's conscious pain and suffering, but the Court of Special Appeals reversed that decision.

Among the groups that filed the brief are the American Tort Reform Foundation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Legal Newsline is owned by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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