• Maryland Case Summaries
  • May 10, 2018 | Authors: Renita L. Collins; S. Joseph Cardile
  • Law Firms: Thomas, Thomas & Hafer LLP - Baltimore Office; Thomas, Thomas & Hafer LLP - Washington Office
  • Colbert v. Mayor and City Council Of Baltimore

    Maryland Court of Special Appeals

    September Term 2016, No. 1610

    Decided: February 2, 2018

    Evidence of water leaks, in general, and a failure to maintain an aging water system, are insufficient to create a jury question about a municipality’s negligence after a buried water line ruptures.

    Background

    A cast iron water line buried beneath Elemley Avenue in Baltimore City ruptured and caused water to flood the basement of Brenda Colbert’s home. Ms. Colbert sued the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore for negligence. She alleged that the water main system was “quite old”, had suffered years of neglect, and had experienced an increase in “non-seasonal breaks.” The City filed a motion for summary judgment arguing there was no actual or constructive notice of any defect that would lead to a water main break. Ms. Colbert argued that the City knew or should have known the water main was defective based on documented service calls about water in basements and a leaking water meter. Ms. Colbert also argued that the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur applied because the water main break occurred under the street. The Trial Court granted the City’s motion for summary judgment. It ruled that Ms. Colbert failed to establish admissible facts to establish actual or constructive notice and that res ipsa loquitur was not applicable.

    Holding

    The Court of Special Appeals held that summary judgment was appropriate and upheld the Trial Court’s ruling. The Court reasoned there was insufficient evidence of actual or constructive notice because the was no record evidence that the leaks and maintenance issues identified by the Plaintiff which put the City on notice of a defect that would lead to a water main break. Further, the Court reasoned that res ipsa loquitur did not apply because there was no record evidence to indicate that a ruptured water main was a casualty which did not occur in the absence of negligence.

    Questions about this case can be directed to Renita Collins, at (410) 653-0460 or [email protected]

    Duckett-Murray v. Encompass Ins. Co.

    Maryland Court of Special Appeals

    September Term, 2016, No. 1812

    Decided: January 31, 2018

    As of 1992, UM limits must equal liability limits, unless waived in writing.

    Background

    In 2013, Michael Haynesworth struck a vehicle owned and operated by Lashawn Duckett-Murray. Murry suffered personal injuries from the accident. Haynesworth did not have motor vehicle liability insurance. Murray filed suit in the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County for damages against Haynesworth. She also sued Encompass Insurance Company, her UM carrier.

    Murray and Encompass filed cross-motions for partial summary judgment on the issue of applicable UM limits. Murray argued that by statute, the policy’s UM limits must be equal to the policy’s $300,000 liability limits. Encompass argued that the UM limits were $75,000, as stated on the policy declarations page. The Circuit Court held that the applicable UM limits were $75,000. The Court granted partial summary judgment in favor of Encompass. The case went to trial. A jury found that Haynesworth was liable to Murray for $192,148.15 in damages. The Court entered judgment against Haynesworth in the full amount and against Encompass for $75,000.00. Murray noted an appeal with the Special Court of Appeals of Maryland and presented the sole question of whether the Circuit Court erred in ruling that the UM limits on Murray’s automobile insurance policy were not equal to the policy’s liability limits.

    Holding

    The Court of Special Appeals looked to the Maryland General Assembly 1992 amendment to Insurance Article Sections 19-509(e)(2) and 19-510(b)(1). It held that the policy behind the amendment was to maximize the number of auto insurance customers who would have UM coverage equal to liability coverage by making that the default coverage, unless affirmatively waived. Because Murray did not affirmatively waive the default coverage, combined with the fact that she made several material changes to her policy, since initiating coverage in 1987l, which were tantamount to a new policy, equal coverage must be implied. Therefore, the Court of Special Appeals vacated the Circuit Court’s judgment against Encompass for $75,00 and remanded the case for the court to enter judgment in favor of Murray and against Encompass for $192,148.15.

    Questions about this case can be directed to Salvatore Cardile, at (410) 653-0460 or [email protected]