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Maryland Senate Considers Bill that Doubles Civil Suit Damages Cap

Maryland’s civil suit damages cap has been a hot topic recently after Maryland’s Court of Appeals ruled that the lower court in Espina v. Jackson correctly reduced the jury’s award of $11.5 million to $400,000 ($200,000 for wrongful death and $200,000 for injuries suffered). A new bill that would double the cap that local governments would pay to plaintiffs in civil suits ($200,000 increased to $500,000 for individual claims and $500,000 increased to $1 million for total awards from a single case). House Bill 113, the House version of the bill, passed last month. This week, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee backed the bill and it could go to a vote before this year’s session is over.

Proponents of the bill make the same argument that Espina’s attorneys made in the Court of Appeals: “the current law is outdated and those who have been wronged by the government should receive a proper remedy.” Those opposing the bill argue that by increasing the cap, local government budgets could be “strained” by “frivolous lawsuits.” It is interesting to note that the current cap has been in place for 27 years without a single increase.

Espina and her attorney testified in favor of House Bill 113 in a recent Senate Committee hearing. When the cap was initially created in the 1980s, the purpose was to make sure cities were not being bankrupted in “suits involving civil rights.” Today, society has changed since the 1980s, and victims of police brutality and other incidents involving state employees deserve adequate compensation and offenders need to be held more accountable for their actions.

With the Court of Appeals’ holding coming out just weeks ago upholding Maryland’s cap on damages in civil suits, it appears more difficult for this bill or any similar bill to pass in this year’s session. But, it will still be interesting to see what, if anything, happens with House Bill 113 or the Senate version of the bill.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed as a result of the negligence of a local government employee and would like to schedule an appointment at one of our office locations throughout Maryland to meet with one of our attorneys for a free case evaluation, please call us at (855) 954-4141 or visit us online.