Saturday, February 29, 2020

Proposed Legislative Bill Seeks to Clarify Requirements of Uninsured Motorist Coverage and Enhanced Underinsured Motorist Coverage

In Maryland, there are several requirements for motor vehicle insurance coverage.  These requirements are found in MD. CODE ANN., INS. § 17-103.  Per MD. CODE ANN., INS. § 17-103, at minimum, the security required for motor vehicles is:

(1) The payment of claims for bodily injury or death arising from an accident of up to $ 30,000 for any one person and up to $ 60,000 for any two or more persons, in addition to interest and costs; (2)  The payment of claims for property of others damaged or destroyed in an accident of up to $ 15,000, in addition to interest and costs; (3)  Unless waived under Section 19-506 of the Insurance Article or rejected under Section 19-506.1 of the Insurance Article, the benefits described under Section 19-505 of the Insurance Article as to basic required primary coverage; (4)  The benefits required under Section 19-509 or Section 19-509.1 of the Insurance Article as to required additional coverage; and (5)  For vehicles subject to the provisions of Section 25-111.1 of this article, the security requirements adopted under 49 C.F.R., Part 387.

Uninsured motorist (UM) or enhanced under-insured motorist (EUIM) coverage pays for costs associated with injuries and damages caused by uninsured motor vehicles and hit-and-run scenarios where a party is unable to identify the other vehicle(s) or driver(s) in an accident to ascertain whether they have insurance or not.

MD. CODE ANN., INS. § 19-509(c) outlines the coverage that is required for uninsured motor coverage in Maryland.  MD. CODE ANN., INS. § 19-509(c) provides:

Coverage required. --  In addition to any other coverage required by this subtitle, each motor vehicle liability insurance policy issued, sold, or delivered in the State after July 1, 1975, shall contain coverage for damages, subject to the policy limits, that: (1)  the insured is entitled to recover from the owner or operator of an uninsured motor vehicle because of bodily injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of the uninsured motor vehicle; and (2)  a surviving relative of the insured, who is described in Section 3-904 of the Courts Article, is entitled to recover from the owner or operator of an uninsured motor vehicle because the insured died as the result of a motor vehicle accident arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of the uninsured motor vehicle.

            Recently, a circuit court ruling interpreted MD. CODE ANN., INS. § 19-509(c) as not requiring UM or EUIM coverage to pay for the loss of use of the insured’s vehicle (this is typically reimbursement for the use of a rental car).  This reading of MD. CODE ANN., INS. § 19-509(c) diverges from how the Maryland Insurance Administration and many other private passenger automobile insurance companies interpret MD. CODE ANN., INS. § 19-509(c). 

Therefore, House Bill 144 has been proposed. The Maryland Insurance Administration requested the bill to clarify that UM and EUIM coverage must pay for the loss of use of the insured’s vehicle. Getting involved in a motor vehicle accident is a stressful experience.  Depending on the severity of the accident and the property damage incurred, those who are insured can be without their motor vehicles for days, weeks, or even months.  This bill would ensure that the added stress of having to worry about paying for rental car expenses out of pocket would be alleviated.

            House Bill 144 passed in the House on February 5, 2020 and is currently pending before the Maryland Senate.

--Letam Duson, Associate Attorney

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Maryland Court Holds that Degenerative Meniscal Tears are Considered an Occupational Disease

Michael Quinlan worked as a Paramedic/Firefighter for Baltimore County for 24 years. Quinlan typically worked four days a week, consisting of two 10-hour shifts and two 14-hour night shifts. During his shifts, Baltimore County required Quinlan to participate in activities such as climbing in and out of emergency vehicles, carrying up to 50 pounds of gear, crouching to address and provide services to patients, administering compression or other aid, lifting patients onto stretchers, moving stretchers, and taking patients up and down the stairs.

In 2015, Quinlan filed a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Commission against his employer, Baltimore County. Quinlan asserted that he developed an “occupational disease”—meniscal tears in his right knee—as a result of the work he was required to do as a paramedic/firefighter. At the hearing, the Commission concluded that Quinlan had not sustained an “occupational disease” as defined by Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. § 9-502(d). Quinlan sought a review of the Commission’s decision by the circuit court, and the case proceeded to trial.

           At trial, Quinlan testified that he started experiencing pain and “clicking” in his right knee in 2014, causing him to seek out a doctor. He further testified that he was right dominant, meaning that he depended on his right leg more while performing his required tasks as a paramedic/firefighter. Quinlan also presented a video deposition of Dr. Barbara Cochran. After her review of Quinlan’s medical records, Dr. Cochran opined that Quinlan had tears in both his medial and lateral menisci, extending to the articular surface of the tibia. Cochran described Quinlan’s meniscal tears as “part of the continuum of osteoarthritis.” In her video deposition, Dr. Cochran also stated that repetitive use was a primary risk factor for Quinlan’s knee issues. She further cited to a study that concluded that “paramedic/firefighters have a ‘relative risk’ of developing knee osteoarthritis of 2.93 compared to the general population, meaning that for every 100 cases in the general population, there are 293 cases of degenerative knee tears in paramedic/firefighters.” Based on this study, Dr. Cochran opined that Quinlan’s “essential job functions” were the cause of his knee osteoarthritis.

           At the end of the trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Quinlan. The jury found that Quinlan had sustained an occupational disease of right knee degenerative tears of the medial and lateral menisci arising out of, and in the course of, his employment. The County appealed to the Court of Special Appeals arguing that: (1) As a matter of law, tears of the medial and lateral meniscus do not qualify as an “occupational disease” for a paramedic/firefighter; and (2) Quinlan had not shown that the degenerative meniscal tears were due to the nature of his employment.

           An occupational disease is “one which arises from causes incident to the profession or labor of the party’s occupation or calling.” Victory Sparkler & Specialty Co. v. Francks, 147 Md. 368, 379 (1925). Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. § 9-502(d) lays out the requirements for claiming an occupational disease. To hold an employer/insurer liable to provide compensation for an occupational disease, the claimant must show: (1) that the occupational disease is due to the nature of an employment in which hazards of the occupational disease exist; and (2) on the weight of the evidence, it reasonably may be concluded that the occupational disease was incurred as a result of the employment. Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. § 9-502(d).

           The Court found that there was a legal basis for concluding that the nature of paramedic/firefighter work, in general, involves a higher degree of risk for developing degenerative knee conditions. Quinlan presented evidence that demonstrated that paramedic/firefighters have a “significant” risk of developing osteoarthritis, relative to the general population. Quinlan also presented expert testimony from Dr. Cochran, who stated that hazards inherent in Quinlan’s “essential job functions” as a paramedic consisting of considerable repetitive kneeling, bending, and stress on the knee caused his knee osteoarthritis. Thus, Quinlan did show that the hazards that led to the development of degenerative knee conditions were within the ambit of a paramedic’s natural role.

The County’s expert, Dr. Hinton, argued that while he did not disagree with Quinlan’s characterizations of his job functions, these job functions were not distinct or unique from any other labor-intensive employment. The Court found that “uniqueness” is not a required element of Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. § 9-502(d). The Court further stated that, as a matter of law, based on the evidence presented by Quinlan, the jury could have reasonably concluded that Quinlan’s employment caused his degenerative meniscal tears. Therefore, as a matter of law, degenerative meniscal tears should not be excluded from the universe of occupational diseases. Finally. there was sufficient evidence for the jury to reasonably conclude that Quinlan’s degenerative knee tears were “due to the nature of an employment in which hazards of the occupational disease exist.” Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. § 9-502(d).  

-Jahnee Waller, Law Clerk

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

RSRM Mourns the Loss of Former Partner Thomas Gentner

Thomas Gentner, former managing partner of Rollins, Smalkin, Richards & Mackie, L.L.C., passed away on February 9, 2020 in Catonsville, Maryland as a result of complications associated with Parkinson's Disease. He was 79 years old.

Mr. Gentner was born in Philadelphia and graduated from Calvert Hall College High School and Loyola University. He earned his Juris Doctor from the University of Baltimore School of Law. He joined RSRM in 1970 as an associate attorney, moving onto become partner, then managing partner, and finally, a consultant. He was with the Firm for 43 years. Mr. Gentner enjoyed playing basketball, tennis, and golf, and was a spirited competitor on and off the court and field, earning the nickname, “Coach.” He donated his body to science to help further our understanding of Parkinson's Disease.

He is survived by his wife of nearly 60 years, five children, and thirteen grandchildren. Family and friends will be received at St. Mark's Chapel on Wednesday, February 12, 2020 from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m., and a funeral mass will be held at St. Mark's Church on Thursday, February 13, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. Memorial contributions can be made to the Parkinson's Foundation ( or The Michael J. Fox Foundation(