To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.
– Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion
In October, the Maryland Court of Appeals issued a very disappointing ruling in the lead paint case of Jackson v. Dackman Co., which nullified a long-standing Maryland statute that granted qualified immunity from lead paint liability to $17,500.00 for rental property owners who took legislatively mandated steps to ensure that their properties were lead free. The Court’s decision was clearly inspired by the opinion that the compensation amount in the immunity provision was too low, but it failed to give any regard for the fact that the immunity only applied to owners who had substantial measures to ensure that their properties were lead free, and that owners who had not acted reasonably to eliminate lead paint from their properties were entitled to no immunity. The action taken by the Court in deciding the Dackman case set off a firestorm of debate, and it was only a matter of time before property owners, legislators, and other interested entities reacted to the decision with new ideas to protect property owners who complied with lead paint abatement laws. Read more
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
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