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The Maryland Tort Claims Act

Can I Sue The State For An Injury?

You cannot sue the State of Maryland for an injury unless you file the lawsuit according to specific guidelines. These guidelines are referred to as the Maryland Tort Claims Act (“MTCA”). Additionally, you have to comply with the statute of limitations.

If you want to sue the State of Maryland, you need to comply with all the normal rules governing lawsuits, in addition to the rules of the MTCA. The MTCA can be found at Md. Code Ann., State Gov’t §12-101 to 12-110.

If you follow these procedures, the State of Maryland can be held liable for your injuries caused by state agents or employees.

Read the Law: Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. §5-522; Md. Code Ann., State Gov’t, §12-104; 20A Maryland Law Encyclopedia, State Government §79.

Steps involved in suing the state

In order to sue the state government the injured party must meet all of these requirements:

  1. One year time requirement!  Submit a written claim letter to the Maryland State Treasurer. This claim must be received within one year after the injury (it is important to note that the year begins at the time of injury and NOT the time you discover the injury). The claim letter to the Treasurer must include these elements:
    1. The name and address of each party
    2. Statement of facts relating to the injury, including:
      1. Nature of the claim;
      2. Date of the injury; and
      3. Place the injury occurred.
    3. Demand for specific damages such as a particular amount of money;
    4. Name, address, and telephone number of the injured person’s legal counsel (if the injured party is represented by counsel);
    5. The claim must be signed by the injured party or the injured party’s counsel.
      Read the Law: Md. Code Ann., State Gov’t, §12-107.
    6. If you miss the one year deadline for submitting a claim to the Treasurer, you can still ask the court to hear your case.  You must file a motion asking the court to hear the case, and explaining that there is a good reason for the delay.  The state may object if your delay has harmed their ability to defend the case.  The court will decide whether to allow the case to go forward.  Read the Law: Md. Code Ann., State Gov’t, §12-106
       
  2. Allow the Treasurer time to investigate the claim. This may take as much as six months. You can sue the State of Maryland only after the Treasurer has denied your claim by:
    1. Sending a denial letter (the Treasurer sends the injured party written notice of denial by certified mail, return receipt requested and under a postmark of the United States Postal Service); or
    2. Failing to resolve the claim within six months after you file the claim.
       
  3. Once the investigation period has ended, the injured party may file a complaint in court. However, the complaint still must be filed within three years after the cause of action arises.
     
  4. The person suing the government must serve the complaint, the summons, and any other documents on the Treasurer.

If the injured person meets all these requirements and wins his or her case, then the state may be liable for a limited monetary amount. However, under MTCA, the state generally cannot be held liable to any one person for more than $400,000 for injuries arising from a single incident.

Read the Law: Md. Code Ann., State Gov’t, §12-104; COMAR §§ 25.02.01 to 25.02.07

Alternatives to a lawsuit

A lawsuit is not the only solution. If the Treasurer’s investigation reveals that the state is responsible for the injury to the claimant, the Treasurer may choose to resolve the case without going to court, by approving the claim and either paying part or all of the claim, or sometimes negotiating or mediating a settlement. However, if this does not work, the next step may be a lawsuit.

Read the Law: Md. Code Ann., State Gov’t, §12-107.

Can I Sue A State Employee?

State employees can rarely be sued; however, they can be sued for actions that do not take place in the course of their employment. In these cases, the state is not responsible for paying any judgment. Under rare circumstances, if the employee’s actions are proven to be grossly negligent or based on legal malice, then the employee can be sued personally even if the action occurred during the course of employment.

Read the Law: Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. §5-522.

 

The rules are different depending on whether you were injured because of the actions of a state, county, or local government employee. The next section applies when a county or local government employee is involved.

The Local Government Tort Claims Act

Can I Sue a County, Baltimore City, or another Local Government?

It is possible to sue an employee of a county, city, or other local government when they injure you. Generally, if the employee is working for the local government when the incident happens, that local government may end up paying for the damages caused by its employee. In most instances, the county, city or other local governments will defend their employees and may pay the damages or settlement for them. However, if the employee is acting with an intent to harm people or if the employee doesn’t care about whether people will be hurt by his actions when the incident happens, then the local government may not pay any damages to you. As when suing the State of Maryland, you must comply with an extra set of rules that pertain to local governments.

To sue a government employee under the Local Government Tort Claims Act (“LGTCA”), you must give a notice of your injury and intention to sue to the required government official, and you must give this notice within one year.

Requirements of the Local Government Tort Claims Act

In order to sue under the LGTCA, the injured party must file a notice of a claim (in person or through certified mail) with the local government:

  1. Within one year after the injury;  (One year time requirement!)
  2. In person or through certified mail, return receipt requested;
  3. In writing, stating the time, place, and cause of injury; and
  4. Delivered to the correct receiver depending on the county you are filing in (see below).
    1. Baltimore City: to the City Solicitor.
    2. Howard County/Montgomery County: to the County Executive
    3. Anne Arundel County/Baltimore County/Harford County/Prince George County: to the County Solicitor or County Attorney.
    4. Other counties that are not mentioned above: to the County Commissioners or County Council of the defendant local government.
    5. Other local governments that are not mentioned above: to the corporate authorities of the defendant local government.

Read the Law: Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. §5-304(c)(3).

If your notice is late, the courts may possibly hear the case. You should have a good reason why your notice was late, and expect that the government will argue that the courts should not hear the case.

Read the Law: Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. §5-304.

Alternatives to a lawsuit

A lawsuit is not the only solution. If the government’s investigation reveals that the government is responsible for the injury to the claimant, the government may choose to resolve the case without going to court, by approving the claim and either paying part or all of the claim, or sometimes negotiating or mediating a settlement. However, if this does not work, the next step may be a lawsuit.

Suing a fellow government employee

Q: What if a local government employee wants to file suit against another fellow employee?

A: If the injury sustained is payable under the Maryland Worker’s Compensation Act, then the employee cannot sue another fellow employee for an injury or omission committed within the scope of employment.

Read the Law: Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. §5-302.

Source: 

Chaitra Gowda, Peiqi Huang, and Samin Peirovi, Practicing pursuant to Rule 16 of the Rules Governing Admission to the Bar of Maryland – University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law (Summer 2014).

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