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Court of Appeals of Maryland Limits “Imputed Negligence” Doctrine

July 11, 2018

In the past, under Maryland law, the negligence of a driver could be imputed to the car’s owner when she was riding as a passenger at the time of the accident — the theory being that the owner can control the driver while she is a passenger. This concept made it very difficult for an injured passenger to recover against the driver of the other vehicle because the contributory negligence of her driver was imputed to her.

In Seaborne-Worsley v. Mintiens, No. 26, 2018 Md. LEXIS 188 (Apr. 20, 2018), the Court of Appeals recognized that the imputed negligence doctrine promotes unsafe backseat driving and has been eradicated, if not severely limited, in other jurisdictions. While the court refused to completely abandon the doctrine, it did significantly limit its application when it held that the contributory negligence of a driver will no longer be imputed to the vehicle’s owner when she is riding as a passenger at the time of an accident.

This decision will now allow owner-passengers to recover for their injuries based on the negligence of third-parties without the defense of the contributorily negligence of their driver being raised as a bar to their recovery, thus opening up a new class of plaintiffs in Maryland.

For more information on the impact of this decision on your risk management programs, please contact: