MARYLAND CLIENT ADVISORY – Maryland’s General Assembly proposes four bills of particular interest to the property and casualty insurance industry.
January 22, 2018
Maryland’s General Assembly proposes four bills of particular interest to the property and casualty insurance industry.
Maryland’s legislative body, which is known as the General Assembly, began this year’s legislative session on January 10, 2018. Over 200 bills have been introduced to date. Of those, the following four bills are of particular interest to the property and casualty insurance industry. To be clear, the following are proposed pieces of legislation and are not yet law. They all must still be passed by the General Assembly. The legislative session concludes on April 9, 2018.
Senate Bill 5 – Civil Actions – Punitive Damages
This proposed new Code provision, sponsored by Senator Wayne Norman, seeks to replace Courts & Judicial Proceedings Article § 10-913, and to codify the basis for awarding punitive damages. Under the current statutory language, evidence of a defendant’s financial means to satisfy a punitive damages award is not admissible until after a factfinder concludes that punitive damages are justified. Additionally, common law currently defines the standard for awarding punitive damages.
The proposed Bill would require that plaintiffs prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant acted with wantonness, fraud, or malice to recover punitive damages. Additionally, the Bill requires that punitive damages be considered concurrently with all other issues presented during trial.
The Bill sets out the factors for the factfinder to consider when determining the amount of punitive damages. It also states that punitive damages may only be awarded when the jury unanimously reaches a decision regarding liability for punitive damages and the amount of said damages. Lastly, the Bill states that the Maryland Rules should be liberally construed to permit discovery of any material information or information that would lead to admissible evidence on the issue of punitive damages.
Senate Bill 30 – Health Care Malpractice Qualified Expert
Senate Bill 30 seeks to repeal a requirement in Courts & Judicial Proceedings Article § 3-2A-04. The proposed Bill would apply to health care providers who attest in a certificate, or testify before an arbitration panel or court, concerning compliance or deviation from standards of care. At present, such health care providers are prohibited from devoting more than 20% of their professional activities to testimonial activities in personal injury actions. This Bill would remove that prohibition.
Senate Bill 36 – Non-Economic Damages Cap
The State of Maryland has a statutory cap on non-economic damages. This proposed Bill seeks to increase the amount of non-economic damages two or more claimants/beneficiaries may seek in a wrongful death action. Under the Bill, the cap on such damages would increase from 150% of the statutory limit for one claimant/beneficiary to 450% of the limit. The Bill also seeks to permit informing the jury of the statutory limitations.
Senate Bill 124 – Direct Action by Third-Party Claimants Against Insurers
This Bill, sponsored by Senator Bobby Zirkin, proposes to allow third-party claimants – meaning anyone asserting an action against an insured under an automobile, homeowner’s, or renter’s insurance policy issued, sold or delivered in Maryland – to file an action directly against the insurer. The Bill would make insurers directly liable to third-party claimants within the terms and limits of the policy at issue. Under the Bill, in an action by a third-party claimant against an insurer, the insurer would be permitted to assert all defenses that would have been available had the third-party claimant brought suit against the insured. Under this Bill, if the third party claimant brings a direct action against the insurer, he/she agrees to cap recovery at the policy limits. Alternatively, the third party claimant could bring an action against the insurer and insured jointly and severally, with no policy limit cap.
Questions about any of these pieces of proposed legislation can be directed to Ben Peoples, at (202) 945-9501 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and/or to Collin Shannon, at (202) 945-9504 or email@example.com.