MARYLAND CLIENT ADVISORY: Maryland Passes Three Ballot Measures Impacting Claims and Litigation
November 10, 2022
Maryland voters went to the polls on November 8, 2022, passing three ballot measures that will impact claims and litigation.
First, voters amended Maryland’s Declaration of Rights to allow for legislation to increase the amount in controversy where a jury trial may be demanded in civil proceedings. The amount in controversy for civil jury trials was established at $5,000 in 1992. The amount was increased to $10,000 in 2006, and increased again to $15,000 in 2010. The ballot measure that was recently passed would allow for an increase from $15,000 to $25,000.
By way of background, Maryland has two trial level courts: the District Court and the Circuit Court. The District Court only affords litigants a bench trial. The District Court exercises jurisdiction over cases where the amount in controversy is less than $30,000. The Circuit Court exercises jurisdiction over cases where a jury trial is demanded. The Circuit Court offers litigants access to robust discovery, including but not limited to, requests for production of documents, requests for admissions, 30 interrogatories, and depositions. The District Court offers more limited discovery mechanisms, such as allowing only 15 interrogatories, no requests for production of documents or requests for admission, and no depositions. Previously, a jury trial could only be demanded if the amount in controversy exceeded $15,000. This ballot measure will authorize Maryland’s legislature to increase that amount to $25,000. We will monitor to see if the legislature does so during its next session this spring.
Notably, the American Property Casualty Insurance Association Political Action Committee, the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (“NAMIC”), the Maryland Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (“MAMIC”), and the Maryland Defense Counsel, all opposed the legislation that put the referendum on the ballot. NAMIC wrote at the time that an increase in the threshold for jury trials “would likely increase the cost of insurance in Maryland . . . [and] would have a significant impact on all individual defendants, but the effects will be exacerbated in the insurance context. The increased jury threshold is likely to increase insurance costs for individual policyholders as insurer defendants will be unable to thoroughly investigate and defend questionable claims and have these claims adjudicated by a jury.” For its part, MAMIC wrote the following at the time: “[I]n the majority of states, no threshold of any kind exists. Among those states that have thresholds, Maryland is an outlier, with one of the highest thresholds in the Nation. . . . [M]any defendants would be disadvantaged by an inability to gather the facts necessary to produce a fair resolution of the controversy surrounding the lawsuit. MAMIC member companies routinely rely on discovery in litigation matters to help evaluate claims and accurately determine settlement amounts.”
The second notable ballot measure passed by voters concerns recreational marijuana. Maryland voters passed a ballot measure to legalize adult-use recreational marijuana, and to direct Maryland’s legislature, which is known as the General Assembly, to pass a law governing the use, distribution, regulation and taxation of marijuana.
Lastly, Maryland voters changed the name of Maryland’s appellate courts. The name of Maryland’s highest court will be changed from the Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court. Before this change, Maryland had joined New York and the District of Columbia in referring to its highest court as the “Court of Appeals,” as opposed to the “Supreme Court.” The name of Maryland’s intermediate appellate court will be changed from the Court of Special Appeals to the Appellate Court of Maryland.
Questions about these developments can be directed to Ben Peoples at (202) 945-9501 or firstname.lastname@example.org.