Maryland’s high court recently ruled that the state’s statutory cap on non-economic damages will remain capped. The current cap is $725,000.
The cap was challenged as unconstitutional by the parents of a five year old boy who drowned in a Crofton Country Club swimming pool on June 22, 2006. In the case, a jury awarded the boy’s parents more than $2 million each in non-economic damages. The non-economic damages cap at the time of the award was $665,000 which resulted in a significant reduction in the parents’ award.
In reviewing the case on appeal, the court said the cap is constitutional because the legislature had a rational basis for enacting it – keeping insurance costs down for companies and individuals. Without the cap, insurers wouldn’t be able to accurately predict their financial exposure in litigation.
Despite ruling that the cap should remain, the high court did find that the parents could present expert testimony that their son had endured “conscious pain and suffering” before drowning. The trial judge had barred recovery by the boy’s estate on this claim because no one had seen the boy drown and therefore there was no eyewitness testimony that he suffered. This indicates a possible shift from earlier rulings that required hard evidence that a victim had consciously suffered prior to death.