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Maryland court of appeals rejects a challenge to the “cap” on non-economic damages

Published on Jul 21, 2009 at 1:49 pm in General Blogs.

In a written opinion, released on July 21, 2009 in the case of Green v. N.B.S., Inc., Maryland’s highest court rejected the arguments made on behalf of a young girl who suffered lead paint poisoning that a statutory reduction of the jury’s award of $2.3 million dollars was both unconstitutional and that lead paint violations are not “common-law torts” and thus not subject to the “cap” on “pain and suffering” damages.

Since 1986, the Maryland legislature has limited the amount of money a person may recover for non-economic damages that arise as a result of the negligence of a defendant. This amount increases by $15,000.00 per year. Whether or not this limitation is constitutional has been challenged in the past, without success. This most recent challenge was also rejected. The Plaintiffs argued that because the “cap” only applies to those who suffer personal injury as a result of a tort (e.g. negligence) and does not apply to any other class of Plaintiffs, it singles out injured victims and prevents them from receiving the entire award of damages. The Court of Appeals disagreed, holding that the law which sets forth the cap on damages is a “general law”, not a “special law” and does not discriminate against tort victims.

The other argument made to the Court on behalf of the injured girl was that the cap should only apply to “common law torts” such as negligence, and not apply to violations of the Consumer Protection Act (“CPA”), which governs and controls the use of lead paint. Rejecting this argument, the Court found that the lead pain violations under the CPA was indeed “tortious conduct” and therefore any damages awarded are subject to the cap instituted on such damages by the Maryland legislature.

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