News Brief

Russell, Hale and Alexander’s Summary Judgment Arguments Adopted by Maryland’s Highest Appellate Court as a Matter of First Impression

July 6, 2020

Angela Russell (Partner-Baltimore), Shadonna Hale (Of Counsel-Baltimore) and Maryan Alexander (Partner-Baltimore) represented a developer in a subrogation claim involving a fire that caused more than $22 million in damages. The construction contract between the property owner/subrogor and the developer included a contractual waiver of subrogation. The property owner’s carrier brought a subrogation action against the contractor that was hired to perform fire watch at the construction site. The contractor then filed a third-party claim for contribution against the developer. Before trial, the contractor settled with the subrogee. A jury subsequently found the developer liable for $7 million in contribution. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the contractor’s right to contribution from the developer, but reduced the damages to $2 million, which represented half the amount the contractor paid to settle with the subrogee. The Court of Appeals vacated and reversed the judgment in favor of our client, holding that the developer could not be liable as a joint tortfeasor because the right to subrogation was contractually waived by the injured party/subrogor. Pursuant to the Maryland Uniform Contribution Among Joint Tortfeasors Act, a claim for contribution can only arise where both wrongdoers are jointly or severally liable in tort for the same injury to a person or property, and because the waiver of subrogation prevented liability from arising against the developer, a claim for contribution could not be brought. Therefore, the judgment against our client was reduced to $0.

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