Tuesday, July 31, 2012

When playgrounds attack!

In 2010, Mr. Griffith and his eight year old son, Christian, wanted nothing more than a bit of "family time." The Mount Tabor Park vintage wooden slide seemed just the thing. A forty foot ramp of highly polished maple marks this as a real throwback amusement. It's like an elevated bowling alley!

Folks enjoy this slide on burlap, towels, or even wax paper.  Hardy souls just travel down by the seat of their pants.

Looks fun, doesn't it? Little Christian Griffith was impaled by an 8-121 inch wooden splinter...in his belly.  Not exactly the fun filled afternoon his father envisioned.

A lawsuit was filed in the Circuit Court for Frederick County against the church that owns the slide, alleging a history of injuries due to splintered wood.  Young Christian sought $500,000 in damages.
On July 20, 2012, the parties settled the case for $60,000. While the church denied liability, I am sure that the potential proof of prior incidents created enough of a risk that the church's insurance company decided to pony up some money.

Remember, even churches carry liability insurance.  And even churches are responsible to avoid creating hidden dangers for you and your children.

When you or a member of the family is seriously injured on property owned by others, there is a series of questions that must be answered before you can sue.  For instance, were you legally on the property? And if not, was it reasonable for the owner to know that you would be on his property because some condition attracted you or your child?  Was the condition hidden, or latent? Or, was it so apparent that you should have known better? In the end, every owner must take reasonable steps to prevent harm to folks legally on their property. Where a public amusement is maintained, the duty is even a bit higher.

So, after the injuries are tended, and you or your loved one is on the mend, talk to a lawyer. We have handled many cases of serious personal injury over the last 25 years.

Visit the Young & Valkenet website.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Don't Skype yourself to jail!

The Washington Post reports that since Microsoft purchased Skype, the service has been modified to make it friendlier to intrusions by law enforcement.

"Lets Skype" is not protection from disclosure and prosecution for you and your clients.

Follow the link to read the full article.

Washington Post Skype Article

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Dead is not forgotten- chasing the defunct corporation.

For my clients who need to chase down defunct corporations, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals just issued a nifty little opinion. On June 28, 2012, the COSA published Thomas v. Rowhouses, Inc., No 2102, Sept. Term, 2010.

And by "defunct," I mean companies that no longer exist because of forfeit charters, dissolution, and the existence or location of past directors is not known. This is a frequent problem with old deeds of trust and judgment liens that remain in the court and land records. These old ghosts mess up home and business sales, refinancings and other transactions, every day. It also involves small companies, with one or two directors, who go forfeit, but continue to do business and incur business liabilities (perhaps to someone like you?).

Tracking down these entities to complete the Constitutionally required service of process can take months, and costs our clients a lot of money. It can require hiring investigators, and even staking out homes and business offices. Sleuthing out a dead corporation for service can make even a routine default judgment pretty costly.

Judge Robert Zarnoch does a very nice job summarizing several procedural rules, and statutes, leading to the conclusion that service on the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation is available as a last resort.

The case involves claims against former property owners for lead paint poisoning, but the discussion about serving process on a defunct corporation will apply to any other type of case, too.

What to take away from the case:
  • Be thorough, and request permission for alternate service on the SDAT only after all traditional and required methods of service have been exhausted.
  • Service on a former corporate director that has since died cannot be made on the dead person's estate. 
  • Start your lawsuit as soon as you reasonably suspect you have a claim. Filing suit early will toll, or stop, the running of the statute of limitation, and will give you time to perfect service or alternate service on the corporation.
So, don't think your case is over just because your target is a defunct company. Who can we find for you?

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

A white knuckle morning.

This morning's rising sun felt warm on my face, but it could not ease my growing apprehension. To my immediate left, a middle aged man stared intently over his bifocals at his glowing computer screen. His focus unnerved me as he appeared oblivious to all other objects within his immediate area.  And to my immediate right, a young lady gestured forcefully with her left arm as her right hand pressed a cell phone against her right ear. Whatever she was saying, I was happy not to be on the other end of that particular phone call.  In front of me, an elderly gentleman struggled to read a small folded newspaper. He paid no heed to the young lady, me, or Mr. Computer Screen. He appeared to fumble with a pencil or pen.

All of this terrified me.

You see, I was in my truck, traveling south on Route 95 at 65 MPH at the time. These folks were my fellow travelers, guiding their own 2000 pound vehicles toward points south of Baltimore.  Only thirty minutes earlier, I had kissed my wife goodbye, and whined a bit about being late for court.  But at that moment, I was not as concerned about getting to the circuit court in Rockville on time as I was about getting home--ever. 

As long as these nuts are on the road, I'm going to buy a larger truck.

A whole bunch of these folks are going to be in serious auto accidents,while they are reading, calling, texting and doing all manner of things when they should be DRIVING.  And many of these accidents will occur with other drivers who are also reading, calling texting and doing all manner of non-driving things.  Who wins in court?

Maryland is a jurisdiction where the plaintiff's contributory negligence, however slight, bars recovery. But did you know that Maryland is in the very, very small minority of states with this rule?  Look at this little group:


Alabama Power Co. v. Schotz, 215 So.2d 447 (Ala. 1968).

Wingfield v. People's Drug Store, 379 A.2d 685 (D.C. 1994).

Board of County Comm'r of Garrett County v Bell Atlantic, 695 A.2d 171 (Md. 1997).
North Carolina

N.C.G.S.A § 99B-4(3).

Baskett v. Banks, 45 S.E.2d 173 (Va. 1947).

The great majority of our United States applies comparative negligence, where recovery by the injured plaintiff is reduced or prohibited based on the percentage of fault attributed to the plaintiff.

So, if my happily distracted fellow travelers have an accident in states other than the five southern states listed, they may still recover.  But if their extra-curricular activities contribute to their accident, in any way, they get nothing in Maryland.

As if you need another reason not to drive distracted.

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