The Court of Appeals of Maryland (“Maryland Appellate Court”), Maryland’s highest appellate court, ruled in its opinion filed on May 22, 2017 that the Annotated Code of Maryland, Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, § 5-201 operates to toll a minor plaintiff’s wrongful death claims during the period of his or her minority, and that Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 3-904 of the Maryland wrongful death statute also applies.
Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-201 provides in relevant part: “Accruals which favor minors or mentally incompetent persons (a) When a cause of action subject to a limitation under Subtitle 1 of this title or Title 3, Subtitle 9 of this article accrues in favor of a minor or mental incompetent, that person shall file his action within the lesser of three years or the applicable period of limitations after the date the disability is removed.”
Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 3-904, which is within the subtitle involving wrongful death actions in Maryland, provides in relevant part: “Limitations (g)(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2) or (3) of this subsection, an action under this subtitle shall be filed within three years after the death of the injured person.”
The issue arose in the present case because the Maryland Appellate Court had held in a 1993 case involving the wrongful death claim of the twenty-year-old plaintiff who was only three when her father died, that the time period for commencing actions prescribed in the wrongful death statute is a condition precedent, operating as a limitation of both liability and remedy. At that time, Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-201 did not refer to Title 3, Subtitle 9 of the Courts & Judicial Proceedings Article.
The Maryland Appellate Court held in the 1993 case, “Once it has been established that section 3-904(g) is a condition precedent, as opposed to a statute of limitations, it follows inexorably that it does not fit within the prescription of section 5-101. Consequently, section 5-201 does not save a cause of action for wrongful death notwithstanding the disability of the plaintiff at the time the action accrued.”
However, after the Maryland Appellate Court’s 1993 decision, the Maryland General Assembly added the OR TITLE 3, SUBTITLE 9 OF THIS ARTICLE language to Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-201. Therefore, the Maryland Appellate Court held in the present case, “By specifically referencing the wrongful death statute within the new version of Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-201, the General Assembly amended the statute to provide that the time period to file a wrongful death cause of action is tolled during a plaintiff’s minority.”
The Maryland Appellate Court also held that the circuit court erred in failing to consider that the time limitation to file a wrongful death action is tolled when the defendant engages in fraudulent conduct that prevents the plaintiffs from bringing a wrongful death action within three years from the date of death, pursuant to Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-203.
Source Parker v. Hamilton, No. 78, September Term, 2016.
If you may have a wrongful death claim in Maryland, you should promptly find a Maryland wrongful death lawyer who may investigate your wrongful death claim for you and represent you in a Maryland wrongful death case, if appropriate.
Click on the “Contact Us Now” tab to the right, visit our website, or call us toll-free in the United States at 800-295-3959 to find wrongful death attorneys in Maryland or in your state who may assist you.
Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.