On July 21, 2009, the Maryland Court of Appeals issued a ruling that will have a dramatic impact on how the cap on noneconomic damages is applied to tort cases. The Court, in Green v. N.B.S. Inc., held that claims brought under the Consumer Protection Act are to be considered torts, and hence subject to the cap limiting awards on noneconomic damages. The argument set forth by the Appellant contended that the cap on noneconomic damages is only applicable to torts that are considered common-law torts, and not to civil wrongs like the statutory violation in this case.
Ultimately, the ruling by the Court of Appeals will have the lasting effect of broadening the applicability of the cap on noneconomic damages. The Appellant's contention in this case was that the cap only applied to torts like negligence. With this ruling on the books, the cap on noneconomic damages will apply to all torts, be they from civil rights violations, automobile accidents or medical malpractice.
A ruling like the one described in Green gives reason to explore why there is a cap on noneconomic damages in the first place. The cap on noneconomic damages essentially serves to protect the wrongdoer, and punish the innocent victim who's suffering goes far beyond the scope of economic damages. The cap also is inherently biased against individuals who are at lower incomes or who do not work. For example, if a child, housewife, or senior citizen suffers a severe head injury in an automobile accident, the economic damages available may be limited because the victim is not working. However, the noneconomic damages incurred from injuries sustained in the automobile accident may be significantly higher. The system, as it's currently designed, sets forth the unfortunate implication that the injuries suffered by children, housewives and the elderly are somehow worth less than injuries suffered by others.
Many states that had passed caps on noneconomic damages have since repealed them. Hopefully, Maryland will do the same.
If you or a relative has suffered an accident-related injury, be it a car accident or otherwise, please contact Portner & Shure.