Tuesday, June 26, 2018

RSRM Welcomes R. Michael Fecik as an Associate!

R. Michael Fecik is a 2003 graduate of the University of Baltimore School of Law, and a 1993 graduate of the University of Baltimore’s Yale Gordon College of Liberal Arts.
While attending law school, Mr. Fecik was a two-year member of the school’s Intellectual Property Law Journal, serving as its Executive Editor from 2002-2003.  Mr. Fecik has worked in the House Counsel offices for the Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund (now Maryland Auto Insurance) and Progressive Insurance, where he handled personal and commercial liability defense matters as well as insurance subrogation claims. In addition, Mr. Fecik has handled complex toxic tort defense, personal injury, and premises liability matters, and has served as defense counsel for the Maryland Transit Administration. Mr. Fecik has tried cases at the district and circuit court levels throughout the State of Maryland.
Mr. Fecik joined RSRM as an Associate in June of 2018. His practice will consist of premises liability, insurance defense, insurance coverage, and general litigation matters.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Maryland Significantly Limits the Imputed Negligence Doctrine

Seaborne-Worsley v. Mintiens, No. 26, 2018 Md. LEXIS 188 (Apr. 20, 2018). 

In late April, the Court of Appeals of Maryland significantly limited the controversial doctrine of imputed negligence. In the context of automobile cases, this doctrine allows for the negligence of a driver to be transferred to the car’s owner if she were riding as a passenger at the time of the accident, based on the “fiction,” as the Court called it, that the owner can control the driver while she is a passenger.  
The doctrine, therefore, makes it difficult for injured parties to recover from negligent third-parties because their own contributory negligence (imputed from the negligence of the drivers of their vehicles) defeats their claims. 
Imputed negligence developed during the emergence of the automobile industry, when there was a sudden increase in accidents and financially irresponsible drivers. As such, it was once useful, but as laws and insurance coverage policies evolved over time, the doctrine became less necessary for finding irresponsible parties and establishing their liability.  
In the instant case, the Court of Appeals recognized that the imputed negligence doctrine promotes the dangerous activity of backseat driving and noted that control of a vehicle by a passenger can be evidence of negligence in itself. The Court differentiated between an owner’s right to control her vehicle and her inability to safely control it while riding as a passenger.   
In reaching its decision, the Court looked to other states’ treatment of the imputed negligence doctrine, and many states have thrown it out completely. The Court also relied upon its own prior decisions, which have called the doctrine “unrealistic” and “fictitious.” The Court has created exceptions to the doctrine in the past when its application stretched too far from its original purposes of spreading risk and compensating innocent third-parties
In this decision, the Court declined the opportunity to completely abandon the imputed negligence doctrine. The Court, however, significantly limited its application, holding that the doctrine should not be used to impute the negligence of a driver to the vehicle’s owner when she is riding as a passenger at the time of an accident. 
This will allow owner-passengers to recover for their injuries based on the negligence of third-parties because they will no longer be found as contributorily negligent and responsible for the negligence of the drivers of their vehicles. 
In this modern decision, the Court of Appeals promotes fairness to owner-passengers in Maryland. However, the Court tactfully preserved the imputed negligence doctrine, explaining that it may be again useful in the future when many vehicles may operate independently. 

- Elizabeth McKelvy, Law Clerk