Monday, February 12, 2024

RSRM Welcomes Associate Audreina Blanding!





Audreina J. Blanding graduated summa cum laude from the University of Baltimore School of Law in 2023 and graduated from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 2016 with a B.A. in Economics.  While attending law school, Audreina clerked for the Office of the Maryland Attorney General, Court and Judicial Affairs Division, as well as served as the 2022-23 Linda Kennedy Economic Justice Fellow with the Homeless Persons Representation Project ("HPRP"). 

Ms. Blanding was also a competing member of the National Trial Competition Team and helped her team place 2nd at the 2022 Buffalo-Niagara Trial Competition.  During her final semester of law school, Audreina had the unique opportunity to prepare a comprehensive assessment of North Korea's human rights obligations on behalf of the United Nations - a paper for which she was awarded 1st Place in the 2023 Center for International and Comparative Law Essay Competition. 

Upon graduation, Ms. Blanding was inducted into the Heuisler Honor Society for graduating within the top 10% of her class.  Immediately following law school, Audreina briefly served as the judicial law clerk for the Honorable Shirley M. Watts of the Maryland Supreme Court.  Outside of the office, Ms. Blanding enjoys traveling, cooking, and trying new restaurants.  

Thursday, January 25, 2024

 The Appellate Court of Maryland affirms dismissal of wrongful death suit holding that the Worker's Compensation Act is the exclusive remedy for non-dependent tort actions. 

Summer Ledford v. Jenway Contracting, Inc.

Appellate Court of Maryland, filed. November 30, 2023 (Wright, J.)

        In Ledford v. Jenway Contracting, the Appellate Court of Maryland considered whether the Worker’s Compensation Act barred a non-dependent from bringing a wrongful death tort action against the decedent’s employer. Ultimately, the Appellate Court held that the Act barred the non-dependent’s tort action and affirmed the Circuit Court’s dismissal of the wrongful death suit.

        The case arose from the appellant’s late father’s tragic death that occurred while he was working for the Appellee. It was undisputed that the father’s death “arose out of and in the course of his employment.” The Appellant, the decedent’s forty-seven-year-old daughter, had no right to benefits under the Worker’s Compensation Act as she was not a dependent of her late father. She filed a wrongful death negligence action against the appellee-employer in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County. The employer thereafter moved to dismiss the action, contending that the Appellant had no viable tort action against the employer because the Worker’s Compensation Act provided the “exclusive” remedy for damages stemming from her decedent-father’s work-related injury.  The Circuit Court agreed and dismissed the Appellant’s action for failure to state a claim.

        On Appeal, the Appellate Court of Maryland traced the history of the Worker’s Compensation Act, enacted in 1914. Prior to the Worker’s Compensation Act, the worker could sue the employer for negligence and the employer could likewise assert defenses such as contributory negligence and assumption of the risk.  The Act’s passage reflected a “compromise between employees’ rights to pursue common law and other statutory damages for their injuries, and the burden to employers of having to provide workers’ compensation benefits.” See Hauch v. Connor, 295 Md. 120, 127 (1983)). Under the Act, the employer is required to pay, regardless of fault. In exchange, the employer is shielded from common law liability as the Act is the exclusive remedy for injured employees and their dependents, also referred to as the “exclusivity provision.” There are two exceptions to the exclusivity provision: 1) where an employer fails to provide compensation in accordance with the Act and 2) where an employer deliberately injures or kills a covered employee. Neither exception applied to the circumstances before the Ledford court.

        While acknowledging that neither Maryland appellate court has encountered the precise issue (whether the exclusivity provision applies to a non-dependent), the Ledford court recognized that Maryland’s appellate courts have considered “whether a wrongful death plaintiff is permitted to bring a wrongful death claim when a covered employee is killed in the course of his or her employment.” The court cited two examples, Koche v. Cox and Austin v. Thrifty Diversified, Inc., both standing for the proposition that, where an injury arises out of or in the course of employment, the sole remedy is the Worker’s Compensation Act. Applying these cases and the language of the Act to the Appellant’s circumstances, the court concluded that the appellee-employer’s liability was “exclusively within the worker’s compensation act” and further reasoned that when a covered employee is injured or killed in the course of his or her employment, the employer’s liability and any recovery resulting from that liability is exclusive to the Act, regardless of whether an otherwise proper wrongful death plaintiff is entitled to benefits under the Act.” (emphasis added).

-Joseph Kavanaugh, Associate

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

RSRM Welcomes Law Clerk Sean Delaney!

Sean is a current 2L at the University of Baltimore School of Law. There he is a staff editor of the University of Baltimore Law Review. His prior legal experience includes an internship with the U.S. Army JAG office at Fort Detrick. He also has experience serving as a legal writing fellow and law scholar for Civil Procedure II and Property. Sean is a 2022 graduate of the University of Maryland, where he majored in Information Science and Criminal Justice.

Welcome to the Team!

Monday, January 8, 2024

Congratulations to RSRM's 2024 Maryland Super Lawyers

 Congratulations to the five RSRM attorneys who were selected to Maryland's 2024 Super Lawyers!

Managing Partner James Andersen was selected as a 2024 Super Lawyer in the area of Personal Injury. Mr. Andersen has 30 years of litigation experience and has served as the Firm’s Managing Partner since 2014. He handles a variety of litigation matters including transportation, products liability, premises liability, construction litigation, and insurance coverage and defense. He has been selected as a Maryland Super Lawyer consistently since 2017.
Partner Paul Donoghue was selected as a 2024 Super Lawyer in Workers’ Compensation. Mr. Donoghue has served as a Partner at RSRM since 1998 and handles workers’ compensation and general litigation/liability matters. He has been selected as a Maryland Super Lawyer in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023.
Partner Tara Barnes was selected as a 2024 Super Lawyer in Civil Defense Litigation. Ms. Barnes has served as a Partner at RSRM since 2016 and works on premises liability, products liability, construction litigation, and insurance coverage and defense matters. She has been selected as a Maryland Rising Star Attorney from 2015 through 2018, and a Maryland Super Lawyer in 2023 and 2024.
Partner Benjamin Beasley was selected as a 2024 Rising Star in Civil Defense Litigation. Mr. Beasley has served as a Partner at RSRM since 2022 and works on premises liability, products liability, and insurance coverage and defense matters. He has been named as a Maryland Rising Star Attorney consistently since 2022.
Associate Ashley Bond was selected as a 2024 Rising Star in Civil Defense Litigation. Mrs. Bond will be an eighth-year associate in 2024 and works on insurance coverage and defense, construction litigation, appellate cases, and workers’ compensation matters. She has been named as a Maryland Rising Star Attorney consistently since 2021.
Each year, approximately five percent (5%) of Maryland attorneys are selected as "Super Lawyers" and two-and-a-half percent (2.5%) are selected as "Rising Stars.”



Friday, August 18, 2023

The Supreme Court of Maryland holds that an umbrella policy clause excluding claims against named insureds by members of the same household is enforceable.

 Pedro Steven Buarque de Macedo, et al. v. The Automobile Insurance Company of Hartford, Connecticut 480 Md. 200 (2022)

This case arose from a catastrophic motor vehicle accident involving Michael Buarque de Macedo, his wife Alessandra, and their three children. The Buarque de Macedo family was driving home from a high school play when their vehicle was struck by a vehicle driving 115 mph. Only one child survived but sustained permanent injuries.

Michael and Alessandra Buarque, de Macedo had an automotive liability policy, with a coverage limit of $500,000 and an umbrella policy, with a coverage limit of 2 million dollars. After the accident, the surviving child, the personal representative of the estates of Alessandra and the deceased child (“the Buarque de Macedos”) made policy limit demands on both policies. While the insurer for the automobile liability policy paid the policy limits of $500,000, the Automobile Insurance Company of Hartford, Connecticut (“AIC”), the insurer for the umbrella policy, denied coverage for the accident. AIC denied coverage because of an exclusion in the policy which stated it does not apply to “bodily injury or personal injury to any person who is related by blood, marriage, or adoption to an insured and who is a resident of the household of that person.”

This appeal came before the Court after the Appellate Court of Maryland upheld the Circuit Court of Montgomery County’s ruling on a motion for summary judgment, where the circuit court found that the household exclusion provision in the umbrella policy was enforceable. On appeal to the Supreme Court of Maryland, the central issue centered on the Court’s interpretation of Md. Courts and Judicial Proceedings Code Ann. § 5-806(b) which states:

The right of action by a parent or the estate of a parent against a child of the parent, or by a child or the estate of a child against a parent of the child, for wrongful death, personal injury, or property damage arising out of the operation of a motor vehicle, as defined in Title 11 of the Transportation Article, may not be restricted by the doctrine of parent-child immunity or by any insurance policy provisions, up to the limits of motor vehicle liability coverage or uninsured motor vehicle coverage.

(Emphasis added). The Buarque de Macedo family argued that the plain language of § 5-806(b) renders the umbrella policy’s household exclusion void with respect to the surviving child, because the umbrella policy included excess motor vehicle liability coverage. Additionally, in Maryland, a provision in an insurance policy is unenforceable if it conflicts with Maryland public policy. AIC argued that § 5-806(b), when read with relevant provisions in the Insurance Article, makes it clear that the General assembly intended for § 5-806(b) to be limited to the mandatory primary layer auto coverage.

            The Supreme Court of Maryland held that § 5-806(b) cannot be read in a vacuum and must be read in conjunction with the relevant provisions in Title 19 of the Insurance Article. The Court found that§ 5-806(b) referenced motor vehicle liability coverage or uninsured motor vehicle coverage which strongly signaled to the Court the General Assembly’s intent for § 5-806(b) to apply only to the required primary liability coverage, and not to optional excess coverage provided by an umbrella policy. The Court noted that the only reference to an umbrella policy in Title 19 of the Insurance Article provides that an umbrella policy may include the uninsured motorist coverage outlined in that section. The Court also reaffirmed that an umbrella policy is not motor vehicle liability insurance within the meaning of the relevant provisions of Title 19 of the Insurance Article. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Court of Maryland.


Fernando D. Kirkman, Associate

Friday, August 11, 2023

RSRM Welcomes Associate Regan Leavitt!

Regan Leavitt graduated magna cum laude from the University of Baltimore School of Law in 2022 and graduated from the University of Michigan in 2019.  While attending law school, Ms. Leavitt served as a staff editor for the University of Baltimore Law Review and interned with the Honorable Matthew J. Fader, Chief Judge of the Appellate Court of Maryland.  Ms. Leavitt also clerked for a mid-sized firm in Baltimore in which she supported attorneys in personal injury, medical malpractice and premises liability matters.

Following law school, Ms. Leavitt clerked for the Honorable John J. Nagle III in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County.

Outside of the office, Ms. Leavitt enjoys watching and playing sports, traveling, spending time with friends and family, and playing with her golden retriever, Goose.


Thursday, July 13, 2023

Application of the Fireman’s Rule Under D.C. Law

     A plaintiff injured while performing professional rescue work may be barred from recovery under most circumstances.

The Professional Rescuer Doctrine, otherwise known as the Fireman’s Rule, generally precludes recovery in tort for those whose business it is to save lives and prevent injury to persons and property. It states that those engaged in rescue work as part of their employment may not, as a matter of law, recover for injuries sustained by them on the job, from those whose negligence was the proximate cause of the injuries. Gillespie v. Washington, 395 A.2d 18, 20 (D.C. 1978).

Under the professional rescuer doctrine, the professional rescuer is held to have assumed the risks attending his work. "Those dangers which are inherent in professional rescue activity, and therefore foreseeable, are willingly submitted to by the professional rescuer when he accepts the position and the remuneration inextricably connected therewith." Id.; see also Young v. Sherwin-Williams Co., 569 A.2d 1173 (D.C. 1990) (“The rationale underlying the rule is that professional rescuers, such as police or firefighters, have assumed the risks inherent in the profession for which they are compensated by the public”); Flowers v. Sting Security, Inc., 62 Md. App. 116, 123 n.1 (1985) (“Although called ‘the fireman's rule,’ the rule is without exception applied to policemen as fully as it is to firemen. The rule is applied to bar certain tort causes of action by firemen and policemen injured during the course of their hazardous occupations.”).

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals (“COA”) has addressed the scope and applicability of the Professional Rescuer Doctrine in at least four reported cases: Gillespie v. Washington, 395 A.2d 18, 20 (D.C. 1978); Young v. Sherwin-Williams Co., 569 A.2d 1173 (D.C. 1990); Lee v. Luigi, 696 A.2d 1371, 1373-74 (D.C. 1997); Melton v. Crane Rental Co., 742 A.2d 875 (D.C. 1999).

In Gillespie v. Washington, 395 A.2d 18, 20 (D.C. 1978), the Plaintiff was a member of the Metropolitan Police Department's Harbor Patrol who was responding to the scene of a capsized boat. In attempting to upright the boat and free any remaining passengers, the Plaintiff injured his back. Plaintiff subsequently sued the Estate of the boat’s operator (who died in the accident). The COA stated that the proper test for determining whether the doctrine applies to bar recovery by a professional rescuer is "whether the hazard ultimately responsible for causing the injuries is inherently within the ambit of those dangers which are unique to and generally associated with the particular rescue activity.” In Gillespie, the COA held that “[s]ince [Plaintiff’s] injuries were sustained in the regular course of his professional rescue responsibilities, [Plaintiff’s] may not recover in this case as a matter of law.”

In Young v. Sherwin-Williams Co., 569 A.2d 1173 (D.C. 1990), a plaintiff firefighter sought to recover for permanent injuries sustained after catching a man who fell off a bridge. The firefighter argued that the professional rescuer doctrine does not apply to his case because, when injured, he was acting outside the scope of his firefighting duties. He based this argument on his testimony that at the time of the accident, the plaintiff was a "pumper driver," whose primary duty was to drive a piece of apparatus called the pumper and to connect the hoses to the hydrant and to supply the necessary water to extinguish a fire. There was also testimony that a firefighter is not expected to catch, either bare-handed or with a net, a grown man falling from a height of fifty feet. The firefighter essentially argued that the court should inquire into whether the particular rescue operation at issue came within the firefighter's specific duties in the company.

The COA rejected the firefighter’s argument that rescue work was outside the scope of his duties as a pumper driver. In explaining its reasoning, the Court stated that:

“[the firefighter’s] injury was caused by [rescue victim’s] fall, a risk that, far from being hidden, was the focus of all eyes on the scene. Nor can it be said that someone hanging from a high place in life-threatening danger is a type of hazard unknown to firefighters in the course of their work. Finally, trying to save [the rescue victim’s] life was not some sort of extracurricular activity for [the firefighter].”

In Lee v. Luigi, 696 A.2d 1371, 1373-74 (D.C. 1997), the plaintiff police officer responded to an activated burglar alarm at a restaurant and filed suit against the restaurant when he fell down some stairs and was injured. The restaurant filed a motion for summary judgment and the lower court granted the motion, holding that the claim was barred by the professional rescuer doctrine. On appeal, the policeman argued that his claim was not barred because the restaurant's negligence, which caused his injuries, was independent of his police work. The COA affirmed the summary judgment, holding that the risk involved was inherent and incidental to the policeman's work, and therefore, his claim was barred by the professional rescuer doctrine. Further, the court held that there was no extremely dangerous and concealed condition known to the restaurant. The court noted that police should have reasonably expected that property owners use portions of their premises to store items and that they may not keep them clear for those not expected ordinarily to enter those areas.

In addressing the scope of Plaintiff’s rescue activity, the COA stated:

[Plaintiff] was performing his police responsibilities when he entered [Defendant’s] premises to look for burglars or signs of burglary. The investigation necessitated that he look in various areas of the restaurant, as he did. That he had completed his examination of the door at the top of the stairs before he fell does not show that his police business on the premises was at an end, as he contends. To perform the investigation, he not only had to ascend the stairs, but descend them as well. Nor does the fact that other officers arrived on the scene change the purpose of [Plaintiff]’s presence in [Defendant’s] premises at the time that he fell. [Plaintiff] seeks to draw too narrowly the scope of the work incident to the performance of his "rescue" activity.

Plaintiff argued that his police responsibilities, and thus his rescue activity, were at an end by the time of his injury (when he descended stairs of restaurant while investigating burglary). The COA rejected this argument and held that, in light of case precedent, the Plaintiff was still within the ambit of his police activities.

This case is helpful in the sense that the doctrine was applied to a situation where the “professional rescuer” was not engaged in “rescue activity” in the traditional sense. Rather, the test is:

whether the hazard ultimately responsible for causing the injury is inherently within the ambit of those dangers which are unique to and generally associated with the particular rescue activity.

The Plaintiff in Luigi, Inc. actually argued that “he was not engaged in rescue activity at the time he was injured” and that “he had completed his professional duties when he fell as a result of [the restaurant owner’s] maintenance of a dangerous condition on the stairway. However, the COA (in applying the above test) found that the dangerous condition on the stairway was a foreseeable risk of the officer’s “rescue activity” of searching the premises for a burglar. See id. at 1375 (“While the doctrine may not preclude recovery for hidden or unknown hazardous conditions, foreseeable risks are within the parameters of the professional's work, and such risks will not support a claim for recovery.”).

The most recent D.C. case to address the doctrine is Melton v. Crane Rental Co., 742 A.2d 875 (D.C. 1999). In Melton, an EMT was transporting a pregnant woman to the hospital via ambulance when he was permanently injured after a truck crane struck the ambulance. The COA held for the first time that the doctrine did not apply to bar the professional rescuer’s recovery because the injury (i.e., 3rd party traffic accident while on the way to the hospital) was not a risk associated with the reason for the rescuer’s presence at the scene. It appears that the COA recognized an independent tort exception to the general doctrine. The COA stated:

Although EMT's regularly ride in emergency vehicles as part of their employment obligations, the fact that the emergency vehicle might become involved in a traffic accident is not a risk associated with the reason for the rescuer's presence at the scene.

The COA went on to state that the only activities the professional rescuer’s doctrine immunizes from liability are “those negligent acts that occasioned [the professional rescuer’s] presence at the scene.” Furthermore, application of the doctrine requires some nexus between (1) the rescue, (2) the specific rescue activity, and (3) the negligent act causing injury. Id. at 13.

 -John Thompson, Associate


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