KramersLaw.com

Personal injury and insurance law attorneys share their expertise in Maryland accident lawsuits, trial litigation and other legal news.

America's Largest "Law Farm"?

We may not be the world's largest law firm.  But Kramer & Connolly has certainly "gone green" and now boasts what might just be the largest law "farm" in America, according to today's issue of The Daily Record ...

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Using Facebook Judiciously

When you become a judge, must you give up your "friends"?

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Lawyers: An Endangered Species?

They may not engender much sympathy.  But, under the pressures of law practice and client grievances, many lawyers have become an endangered species.

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Hard Calls for Robocall Defense Lawyers

“When the law is against you, argue the facts.  When the facts are against you, argue the law.”  And, as lawyers in the robocall case demonstrate, “when both the law and the facts are against you, just argue.”

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Wrongful Death Lawsuit: Is Campus Security Lax?

When UVA lacrosse player Yeardley Love was found dead in her off-campus apartment, the school's president hoped her death would inspire outrage over campus violence.  Last week, he got his wish when Yeardley's mom sued the school for wrongful death.


Speaking at a candlelight vigil held three days after her murder, University President John Casteen hoped “that her dying inspires an anger, a sense of outrage ... wherever Yeardley’s name is recognized that no woman ... fear for her safety or experience violence for any reason.”

It has.

Expressing outrage that her daughter had to live in fear for her safety, Sharon Love's $29.45 million wrongful death lawsuit raises serious questions about the University's duty to protect its students from violence on and off campus.

Filed nearly a year after her daughter was murdered at the hands of UVA men’s lacrosse player George Huguely V, the suit claims that the school failed to protect Yeardley and other students from his drunken, erratic and violent behavior.  Citing three prior incidents of violence, including one in which Huguely attempted to choke Yeardley until other students restrained him, the Complaint alleges that “[i]t was well known to the players and coaches on the UVA men’s and women’s lacrosse teams that Huguely’s alcohol abuse and erratic, aggressive behavior was increasingly getting out of control, especially his obsession with Love and his aggressiveness and threats to Love.”

Did the University discipline this dangerous student, place him into treatment, provide anger management counseling, or take other steps to protect his fellow students?  Not according to the lawsuit.  After all, both lacrosse programs were vying for a national title at the time.

Nope.  To honor Love, the University president held a candlelight vigil, expressed outrage, and let the rest of the lacrosse games resume.  As both teams entered the NCAA tournament, Yeardley’s old lacrosse coach vowed to “do it the way that Yards would want us to do it.”

Now that Yards’ mom has sued the school, its president isn’t talking much about the danger and fear that this young woman was forced to endure as a member of the campus community.  No longer expressing outrage, the University is letting its lawyers do the talking.  “While we certainly recognize the terrible loss suffered by the Love family,” a spokesman for Virginia’s Attorney General told the Associated Press that the “loss was not caused by the Commonwealth or anyone employed at the University of Virginia. ...  If it is served, we will vigorously defend the case.”

Whether or not the University had sufficient knowledge of the dangers posed by one of its students, or acted negligently in failing to protect others from his murderous hands, is a matter to be debated in court.  But it may just take a wrongful death lawsuit for University officials to focus as closely on campus security as their coaches focus on shots on goal.

Maybe that's how Yards would have wanted it.

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The "Seacret" is Out: Trademark Infringement

Sometimes, David really can beat Goliath in court. At least, when the slingshot hits the core of trademark infringement.

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The Mysterious Flying Bus

If buses could fly, must I prove why before I have a case I can try?


According to the Maryland's highest court, the operator of a bus that became "airborne" while traveling on Route 50 West in Prince George's County cannot be held liable based upon that fact alone.  Rejecting the claims of two passengers injured when a Washington, D.C. bus made a crash landing into a tree off the side of the road, the Court of Appeals found that evidence to be insufficient to warrant an inference of negligence on the part of its driver.

Rather than call witnesses to explain how the bus took off to such unfriendly skies, Plaintiffs Wayne and Jaron Singleton argued that, because such a single-vehicle accident ordinarily would not occur without some fault on the part of the bus driver, the defense should have the duty to prove otherwise under what is known as the legal doctrine of res ipsa loquitor (literally, "the thing speaks for itself").  But a unanimous court refused to apply this doctrine, particularly in a case where Plaintiffs' counsel failed to have any actual witnesses speak about what may have caused this unusual incident.

In the Court's view, the doctrine would only apply under circumstances in which one could rule out causes other than driver error.  "With regard to a negligence action based on a perceptually single-vehicle accident, [the doctrine] will be available 'if the accident or injury is one which ordinarily would not occur without negligence on the part of the operator of the vehicle' and 'the facts are so clear and certain that the inference [of negligence] arises naturally from them.'"

Although the Court recognized a number of older cases in which such inferences were made in single-vehicle accidents, it refused to draw this inference where there were a number of witnesses to the accident available to testify.  But because of their attorney's "apparent tactical decision to avoid reasonably available witnesses," Plaintiff's "unnecessarily barebones case-in-chief failed to eliminate sufficiently other causes of the accident, and failed to evince that the bus driver's negligence was the most probable causative factor."  Rather than shift this burden of proof to the defense, the Court refused to let Plaintiffs "merely ... prove that the bus left the road and rest, taking advantage of res ipsa loquitur to plug the hole in the doughnut" of their case.

CASE DISMISSED.

District of Columbia v. Singleton
March 20, 2012

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The Mysterious Flying Bus

If buses could fly, must I prove why before I have a case I can try?


According to the Maryland's highest court, the operator of a bus that became "airborne" while traveling on Route 50 West in Prince George's County cannot be held liable based upon that fact alone.  Rejecting the claims of two passengers injured when a Washington, D.C. bus made a crash landing into a tree off the side of the road, the Court of Appeals found that evidence to be insufficient to warrant an inference of negligence on the part of its driver.

Rather than call witnesses to explain how the bus took off to such unfriendly skies, Plaintiffs Wayne and Jaron Singleton argued that, because such a single-vehicle accident ordinarily would not occur without some fault on the part of the bus driver, the defense should have the duty to prove otherwise under what is known as the legal doctrine of res ipsa loquitor (literally, "the thing speaks for itself").  But a unanimous court refused to apply this doctrine, particularly in a case where Plaintiffs' counsel failed to have any actual witnesses speak about what may have caused this unusual incident.

In the Court's view, the doctrine would only apply under circumstances in which one could rule out causes other than driver error.  "With regard to a negligence action based on a perceptually single-vehicle accident, [the doctrine] will be available 'if the accident or injury is one which ordinarily would not occur without negligence on the part of the operator of the vehicle' and 'the facts are so clear and certain that the inference [of negligence] arises naturally from them.'"

Although the Court recognized a number of older cases in which such inferences were made in single-vehicle accidents, it refused to draw this inference where there were a number of witnesses to the accident available to testify.  But because of their attorney's "apparent tactical decision to avoid reasonably available witnesses," Plaintiff's "unnecessarily barebones case-in-chief failed to eliminate sufficiently other causes of the accident, and failed to evince that the bus driver's negligence was the most probable causative factor."  Rather than shift this burden of proof to the defense, the Court refused to let Plaintiffs "merely ... prove that the bus left the road and rest, taking advantage of res ipsa loquitur to plug the hole in the doughnut" of their case.

CASE DISMISSED.

District of Columbia v. Singleton
March 20, 2012

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Road Rage Takes the Stage ... in Court

Accidents happen.  And, when they do, a negligence case can help you recover for pain and suffering, medical bills and other “compensatory damages.”  But, what if the collision wasn’t exactly an “accident”?  Can you get more?


In a road rage case, where I intend to hurt you by deliberately slamming into the rear of your vehicle, you could get extra damages designed to punish the other driver for malicious conduct.  Such “punitive damages” are about as rare as road rage accidents.

But what if I accidentally struck you while pursuing another vehicle?  Even though you were not my intended victim, shouldn’t I be punished nonetheless?  Shouldn’t I get hit for more than “compensatory damages”?

Maybe.  But, according to a recent decision by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, the plaintiff better have some pretty solid facts to back up these types of allegations.  In Hendrix v. Burns, the plaintiff’s Toyota Corolla was struck in the rear by a drunk driver’s Jeep Cherokee.  According to one witness, this intoxicated driver displayed conduct consistent with “road rage.”  Just prior to the collision, the witness saw his Jeep drive in front of another car, slam on his brakes so that the other driver had to do likewise, get out of the Jeep, walk angrily to that driver’s window and speed through a red light after that driver eluded him.

Although the Court concluded that the Jeep’s driver “was enraged at the [other] driver for some unknown or irrational reason,” this evidence wasn’t enough to prove that he intended to hit the other car or otherwise inflict bodily harm.  Without legally sufficient evidence of an intent to harm someone else, the plaintiff could not use these irrational actions in pursuing punitive damages.

Of course, the plaintiff did win an $85,000 negligence claim to cover her pain and suffering, medical bills and other “compensatory damages.”  But without more evidence of an intent to cause bodily harm to herself or to the other driver, she was denied a bonus on top of that.

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Size Doesn't Matter ... When Selecting Law Firms

For many years, one popular adage among corporate counsel seeking legal services was that "no one gets fired hiring Skadden Arps," or other multi-national firms of that size.  Maybe they should.

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Can George Zimmerman Get a Fair Trial?

Who needs a jury when Al Sharpton has already found you guilty?


To listen to such "civil rights leaders" as Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and, uh, Mike Tyson, there's really no need to try George Zimmerman for the alleged second degree murder of Trayvon Martin.  He's already guilty.  Why postpone the execution?

Al Sharpton ought to know.  He didn't need a jury's verdict before accusing six men of brutally raping Tawana Brawley back in 1987.  Remember her?  This 15-year-old was found smeared with feces, lying in a garbage bag, her clothing torn and burned and with various slurs and epithets written on her body in charcoal -- victimized by six white men, some of them police officers, in the town of Wappinger, New York.

Convicting these men in the court of public opinion, Sharpton even accused the county prosecutor of orchestrating the alleged abduction and rape as part of a racist scheme.

No matter that a grand jury spent seven months examining police and medical records to determine that Brawley fabricated the entire story.  No matter that another jury found Sharpton liable for slander and $345,000 in damages for those falsely accused.  Twenty years after Brawley's story was soundly discredited, Sharpton is, in some circles, hailed as a civil rights leader, does public interest commercials with Newt Gingrich, and is a nationally-televised talk show host and commentator.  Having profited greatly from the notoriety surrounding the Brawley fiasco, Sharpton stands by his accusations ... and can never be found far from cameras pointing at any high-profile case he can get his hands on.

The Martin case, to be sure, is certainly different from that of Tawana Brawley.  No one has fabricated the death of this unarmed 17-year old.  Neighborhood watch volunteer, 28-year old George Zimmerman, apparently admits to the shooting, but claims self-defense.  To those listening to media accounts and the vitriol of commentators like Sharpton, the presumption of innocence has already been rebutted.

For my part, I'm willing to let a jury decide the question of guilt or innocence.  Though it may be difficult for some to conceive of a successful defense in this case, I am much more comfortable leaving key questions to the common sense of jurors than to the nonsense of fellows like Sharpton.  And, while he's certainly entitled to free speech, we must be mindful that this freedom and the media frenzy surrounding the case may come at the cost of another fundamental right: The right to a fair trial.

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