09 July 2013

Law in Plain English: Coleman v. Soccer Association of Columbia

James K. Coleman v. Soccer Association of Columbia, et al.
Docket No. Opinion Below Argument Opinion Vote Author Term
No. 9 ECR Sep 10 2012
Vid.
Jul 9 2013 5-2 Eldridge ST 2012

Issue - Tort Law - Should this Court ameliorate or repudiate the doctrine of contributory negligence and replace it with a comparative negligence regime?

Plain English Summary: Coleman (a volunteer soccer coach) was retrieving a ball from a soccer goal when he jumped and grabbed the crossbar. The goal subsequently collapsed and injured him. The jury found that the Soccer Association of Columbia was negligent, but that Coleman was also negligent.

Maryland is one of only a few jurisdictions (the others being Alabama, the District of Columbia, North Carolina, and Virginia) that allows the defense of contributory negligence. When a plaintiff is found to have contributed to his own injuries, he cannot recover (even if his contribution was minimal). Because the jury found that Coleman was partially negligent in causing his own injuries, he could recover nothing.

Most states allow a defense of comparative negligence, which reduces the amount of damages that a plaintiff can recover in a negligence-based claim based upon the degree to which the plaintiff's own negligence contributed to cause the injury. In other words, if a plaintiff is found to be 30% responsible for an injury based upon a $100,000 claim, he would recover 70%, or $70,000.

The question before the Maryland Court of Appeals is whether the Court should ameliorate or repudiate the doctrine of contributory negligence and replace it with a comparative negligence regime.

Holding: In a 5-2 decision, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that the General Assembly’s repeated failure to pass legislation abrogating the defense of contributory negligence is very strong evidence that the legislative policy in Maryland is to retain the principle of contributory negligence. As a result, the Court declined to repudiate the doctrine of contributory negligence and replace it with comparative negligence.

News Coverage

Date Proceedings and Orders
Apr 20 2012 Writ of Ceriorari granted.
Jun 22 2012 Electronic Case Record
Jul 11 2012 Brief amici curaie of Local Government Insurance Trust, et al. filed. 

Brief amici curaie of American Tort Reform Association, et al. filed. 

Brief amici curaie of Maryland Chamber of Commerce, et al. filed. 
Jul 9 2013 Decision
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