Maryland Upholds Contributory Negligence Rule

Annapolis, Maryland (July 9, 2013): The Court of Appeals of Maryland today declined to abandon the common law rule of contributory negligence in favor of comparative negligence. Under the doctrine of contributory negligence, an individual is barred from recovering damages in a tort action if the individual is found to be in any way at fault. In reaching its decision, the Court of Appeals examined the long history of the contributory negligence in Maryland, which was adopted by the State in 1847, and the doctrine’s fall from grace in the majority of states. The Court of Appeals noted that the overwhelming majority of states that have abandoned contributory negligence have done so through the legislative process. However, the General Assembly has repeatedly failed to pass a bill that would change or modify the contributory negligence standard. This failure, according to the Court of Appeals, is evidence of a legislative policy to retain the principle of contributory negligence. Although the Court of Appeals has the power to abrogate the common law, the Court held that to do so here would be inconsistent with the its long-standing jurisprudence of deferring to the announced public policy of the legislature.

A copy of the decision, James Coleman v. Soccer Association of Columbia, can be found here.

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