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New York at Christmas – Rockefeller Center, the Nutcracker, Rockettes…and a Large Group of Lawyers!

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Defense Research Institute’s (DRI) Professional Liability Conference in New York City.  The Conference ran concurrently with the Insurance Coverage Symposium, which two of my colleagues were able to attend.  Although this seminar did not “reinvent the genre” of the legal education conference, DRI once again put on a first-rate seminar, with knowledgeable speakers presenting on a wide array of topical issues.  Some of my favorite sessions touched on avoiding and defending elder abuse claims against professionals, and how the drafting of good (or bad) engagement and disengagement letters to clients can impact claims against attorneys and other professionals.  I have been a member of DRI for many years, and its seminars are always highly substantive and informative. Read more

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Revisiting the Common Law Wrongful Discharge Claim

In my previous post regarding the Maryland Job Applicant Fairness Act, I noted that discharged employees could attempt to bring common law wrongful discharge claims against their employer under the theory that a termination in violation of the Act runs afoul of a clear mandate of public policy.

Maryland generally adheres to the “at-will” employment doctrine, meaning that an employee can be discharged at the will of the employer with or without cause, and the employee may also voluntarily quit at any time.  Notwithstanding the “at will” doctrine, a civil right of action may exist in favor of an employee when the termination was allegedly motivated by an unlawful purpose.  Several anti-discrimination statutes expressly grant a right of action in favor of an employee who believes he or she has been discharged in violation of the statute.  Where no statutory right of action exists, the employer still faces the threat of a common law wrongful discharge claim, which has long been recognized by the Maryland Courts where the discharge violates a clear mandate of public policy. Read more

New Credit Check Restrictions Could Expose Employers to Potential Liability

The Maryland Job Applicant Fairness Act, which recently took effect after being signed into law by Governor O’Malley last spring, now prohibits an employer from using a job applicant’s credit history or credit report in determining whether to hire an applicant, discharge an employee, or to “determine compensation or the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.”  The Act exempts some employers from the prohibition, such as certain financial institutions, companies required by federal or state law to conduct credit inquiries, and entities registered as investment advisors with the Securities and Exchange Commission.  Notwithstanding, the vast majority of employers will be required to comply with the Act, which means that any employer who currently utilizes an employee or applicant’s credit history and reports in making employment decisions will have to cease doing so, or ensure that it only uses such information for employees or applicants that fall within the specific exceptions enumerated by the Act. Read more

Maryland Insurers Now Required to Make Pre-Litigation Disclosures of Policy Limits Information to Certain Claimants Involved in Motor Vehicle Accidents

Last spring, Governor O’Malley signed into law new legislation that requires insurers to disclose policy limits information to claimants involved in motor vehicle accidents under certain circumstances prior to litigation being initiated.  It is important to note that the new law only applies to claims involving motor vehicle accidents.  The new law, which is codified in the Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, §§10-1101 through 10-1105, took effect on October 1, 2011, but will only apply prospectively to claims filed with an insurer on or after the effective date of the new law.  Now that the law is in effect, insurers need to be familiar with the new law and understand the circumstances under which they will be obligated to make pre-litigation disclosures.  Read more