Monday, December 31, 2018

Congratulations to RSRM’s 2019 Maryland Super Lawyers!

It is with great pride that RSRM announces that two of its attorneys have been selected among Maryland’s 2019 Super Lawyers.

Managing Partner James Andersen was selected as a 2019 Super Lawyer in the area of Personal Injury. Mr. Andersen has nearly 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, medical malpractice, and insurance coverage and defense.

Associate Rima Kikani was selected as a 2019 Rising Star in the area of Civil Defense Litigation. Ms. Kikani is a fifth-year associate and works on premises liability, products liability, and insurance coverage and defense matters.

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.”

Congratulations to our 2019 Super Lawyers!

Monday, December 17, 2018

Maryland Rules There is No Absolute Duty to Warn an Employee of Asbestos Dangers to the Employee’s Family

Estate of Concetta Schatz v. John Crane, Inc., 2018 Md. App. LEXIS 996, No. 1300, Sep Term, 2017 (filed Nov. 2, 2018).
William and Concetta Schatz married in 1955, and William began working for Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) soon after their honeymoon. He retired from BGE in the 1980s after years of hard work at the Wagner Station as a mechanic. During his time at Wagner Station, William replaced boiler equipment with a type of rope that was produced by John Crane, Inc. (“JCI”). JCI’s rope contained 60% chrysotile asbestos. Concetta, for years, washed William’s work clothes from Wagner Station and in 2015, passed away as a result of malignant mesothelioma. 
The Estate of Concetta and Concetta’s four daughters filed products liability actions against JCI for her death, contending that the mesothelioma resulted from the exposure to the asbestos in William’s work clothes, and that JCI should have warned of these dangers. At the close of the plaintiffs’ case, JCI moved for judgment arguing that the plaintiffs failed to prove the existence of a legal duty owed by JCI to Concetta. The circuit court agreed and granted judgment in favor of JCI. The Estate of Concetta appealed the circuit court’s decision to the Court of Special Appeals and argued that a duty to warn should extend to household members as of 1972, based on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) safety regulations for tracking asbestos dust brought into the home. 
The Court of Special Appeals cited extensively to Georgia-Pacific, LLC vs. Farrar, 432 Md. 523 (2013) as an analogous case to demonstrate that no duty was owed by JCI to warn Concetta of the dangers of asbestos. The Court agreed with the plaintiffs that a breakthrough occurred in the 1972 OSHA regulations such that JCI should be on notice of the dangers of asbestos; however, noted that such notice is not the only consideration regarding a duty to warn. 
The Court stated that two crucial factors should be considered: (1) the foreseeability of the harm; and (2) weighing the foreseeability of harm against policy factors, such as the relationship between the parties and the feasibility of providing warnings. The Court applied these factors and concluded that the plaintiffs presented no evidence showing a relationship between Concetta and JCI, and there was no evidence presented that a warning would have been effective or that William could have limited asbestos exposure to Concetta based on a warning.
Therefore, the Court found no duty to warn under the facts of Estate of Concetta Schatzbut cautioned that if certain policy considerations were met, a duty to warn could materialize.

-Bryce Ziskind, Associate Attorney 

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Governor Hogan Appoints New Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commissioners

Governor Larry Hogan recently appointed Allan H. Kittleman and Howard L. Metz to the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission.

Commissioner Kittleman graduated with honors from the University of Maryland School of Law. After receiving his J.D., he joined the law offices of Smith, Somerville & Case. In 1991, he joined Herwig & Humphreys, where he later became a partner, and then went on to work with Godwin, Erlandson, Vernon & Daney, as an "of counsel" attorney. Throughout his twenty-five (25) years of legal practice, Commissioner Kittleman concentrated his practice in the defense of workers’ compensation claims in Maryland and the District of Columbia. He also served as a state senator, worked on the Workers’ Compensation Oversight Committee, the Howard County Council, and served as the Howard County Executive.

Commissioner Metz graduated from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey School of Law in 1985. He then spent over thirty (30) years as a workers’ compensation and litigation attorney in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia. During this time, he briefed and argued cases before the Maryland Court of Appeals, Maryland Court of Special Appeals, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Thereafter, he served as a mediator for the Circuit Courts for Frederick and Washington Counties in Maryland. Commissioner Metz also served as President of Executive Board of the Bar Association of Frederick County in 2013, and continues to serve as a member of the Board today. In addition, he continues to provide lectures and continuing legal education instruction in the areas of workers’ compensation law and mediation practice.

Commissioners Kittleman and Metz will replace retiring Commissioners Patricia Adams and Jeffrey Herwig.

-Ashley Bond, Associate Attorney

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Governor Hogan Appoints Three New Maryland Judges

Governor Larry Hogan recently appointed three new judges to the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County—Judge Pamela Alban; Judge Elizabeth Morris, and Judge Robert Thompson—to fill the vacancies left by retiring judges. 

Judge Pamela Alban, prior to her appointment, worked as an Assistant State’s Attorney in the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s office. During her career, she served as the Division Chief of the Special Victims Unit as well as the Division Chief of the Sex Offense and Child Abuse Unit. Judge Alban graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Miami and a Juris Doctor from the Georgetown University Law Center. 

Judge Elizabeth Morris worked as an attorney with the National Security Agency before her appointment. She also previously served as an Assistant Attorney General in the Contract Litigation Division and worked for the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation as well. Judge Morris received her Bachelor of Arts from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania and her Juris Doctor from the University of Maryland School of Law. She is the first African American female judge to be appointed to the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.

Judge Robert Thomas was a solo practitioner with his own firm and also served as a volunteer lawyer with the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Northwest Nazarene University, his Master of Arts in Philosophy from St. John’s College, and a Juris Doctor from the University of Baltimore Law School.

Congratulations to the new Judges!

Monday, October 1, 2018

Maryland Court of Special Appeals Reviews Occupational Diseases

Baltimore County v. Michael Quinlan, No. 319, Sept. Term 2017 

            The Maryland Court of Special Appeals recently held that an employee presented sufficient evidence at trial to establish that the degenerative menisci tears he suffered were an occupational disease for which he may recover under the Labor & Employment Article § 9-502(d)(1)(i) of the Maryland Code.
            Michael Quinlan (“Quinlan”) filed a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Commission, alleging that he developed meniscal tears in his right knee due to his job duties as a paramedic/firefighter.  After a hearing, the Workers’ Compensation Commission determined that  Quinlan did not sustain an occupational disease arising out of, and in the course of, employment.  Quinlan appealed.

            The matter went before a jury in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County.  There, Quinlan testified that he worked for the Baltimore County Fire Department as a paramedic for twenty-four (24) years.  That job required Quinlan to work long shifts, in which there were between 26-30 calls per day.  During those calls, Quinlan often had to kneel, and when he did so, he knelt down on his right knee.  In 2005, Quinlan injured his right knee while assisting a patient at work.  In 2014, Quinlan returned to his doctor for further knee problems.  The doctor found tears in Quinlan’s medial and lateral menisci.  Quinlan underwent a partial meniscectomy, and then returned to work.

            Quinlan called Dr. Barbara Cochran (“Dr. Cochran”), a specialist in internal medicine, occupational medicine, psychiatry, and pulmonary medicine, to testify.  Dr. Cochran explained that tears of the menisci, as Quinlan suffered from, are part of the continuum of osteoarthritis, and that osteoarthritis is a cumulative injury.  Dr. Cochran further explained that understanding a patient’s job functions, shift work, and whether he or she takes breaks is vital to forming a reliable opinion relating to osteoarthritis.  Dr. Cochran also testified that medical literature showed that in general,  more physically demanding jobs and people who do more squatting and kneeling are at a greater risk for osteoarthritis and problems in their knees.  Finally, Dr. Cochran testified that Quinlan’s essential job functions, which included repetitive kneeling, bending, and stress on the knee, are the causes of Quinlan’s osteoarthritis.

            Baltimore County called orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Richard Hinton (“Dr. Hinton”) to testify.  Dr. Hinton performed an independent medical examination of Quinlan and found Quinlan to have a previous partial meniscectomy, lateral meniscectomy, early arthritis in the medial side of the knee, and mild arthritis behind the knee cap.  Dr. Hinton, however, claimed he could not relate the meniscus tears directly to Quinlan’s job because there were no specific incidents or cumulative symptomatic episodes on the job.  Dr. Hinton agreed that the medical literature showed that people in more physically demanding jobs and people who do more squatting and kneeling have a greater risk of osteoarthritis and problems in their knees.  In Dr. Hinton’s opinion, however, the medical research did not yet explain why that portion of the population was more at risk, but he speculated that it could be limited to more definable injuries, less access to health care, smoking, or weight.  Finally, Dr. Hinton described Quinlan’s occupational injury as a potential or arguable cause of his arthritis, though not the primary cause.

            The jury returned a verdict in favor of Quinlan.  Baltimore County appealed, arguing that both doctors’ testimonies made clear that osteoarthritis and degenerative knee tears are not diseases inherent in Quinlan’s employment, but rather, are diseases of life.  Baltimore County further argued that a disease cannot be occupational if it is wide spread in the population and is not inherent to the occupation.

            Quinlan countered arguing that the proper analysis is not whether a disease is labeled occupational or not, but rather if the basic job responsibilities exposed an individual to conditions that could lead to the disease.  Quinlan did not dispute that there were potentially other causes in addition to his work that could have led to his diagnosis because, by law, there can be more than one cause for the degenerative tears as long as his work contributed in part. 

            The Court of Special Appeals found that Quinlan presented sufficient evidence to prove that his menisci tears were an occupational disease.  The Court of Special Appeals further indicated that Baltimore County did not preserve its legal argument that Quinlan’s injuries were injuries of life.  Even if Baltimore County did preserve the argument, the Court of Special Appeals indicated that it would not find the argument convincing because it is the risk factors, not the disease, that must inhere in the nature of the employment.  Therefore, the judgment was affirmed.

-Ashley Bond, Associate Attorney