General Assembly raises tort claims damages caps
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By: Steve Lash; Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer; April 14, 2015
ANNAPOLIS – The General Assembly passed legislation in the final hour of its 2015 session to raise to $400,000 the liability cap for state, county and local governments for negligent acts that injure people.
The legislature also increased to $800,000 the cap on a county or local government’s liability on any single claim, regardless of the number of plaintiffs.
In addition, individuals injured through the negligence of county or city employees will have up to one year from the date of their injury to notify the locality of their intention to sue. Current law requires that notice be given within 180 days, or about six months, to counties and cities.
People injured by the negligence of state agents will still have up to one year to notify the state.
The dollar figures represent boosts from current liability limits of $200,000 for single plaintiffs and $500,000 for any single claim against counties or localities.
Maryland law imposes no limit on the state’s total liability for a single claim brought by multiple claimants against the state.
The legislation awaits Gov. Larry Hogan’s signature. If enacted, the new caps would apply to claims arising on or after Oct. 1, 2015.
The $400,000 cap also represents a splitting of the difference between the Senate’s preference for a $500,000 cap and the House’s preference for a $300,000 limit. Likewise, the $800,000 figure represents a compromise between the Senate’s preference of $1 million and the House’s preference for $600,000.
Sen. Robert A. “Bobby” Zirkin, who chaired a three-member team of Senate negotiators, called the cap increase “progress” in protecting the rights of people injured or killed by the negligence of governmental agents, such as police or bus drivers.
“The next round of victims will get a little more” compensation, Zirkin said after Monday night’s vote. He said he will propose another increase in the next General Assembly session.
“We will be back,” said Zirkin, D-Baltimore County and chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.
Del. Samuel I. “Sandy” Rosenberg, A Baltimore Democrat who chaired a three-member team of House negotiators, said the cap increase “strikes an appropriate balance” between compensating injured people and protecting the taxpayer-supported coffers of state, county and local governments.
The measures are House Bills 113 and 114, which would amend the liability caps in the Local Government Tort Claims Act and Maryland Tort Claims Act, respectively.