What would happen if Maryland changes their common law foundation from contibutory negligence to comparative fault?
Maryland CPAs and businesses will face more lawsuits, higher premiums on general liability and professional insurance policies, and spend a lot more time defending frivolous lawsuits – in effect a “lawsuit tax”.
How would you feel if this fundamental legal foundation would be changed without you being able to weigh in?
This is the current situation we are facing as reported in the Gazette, “Court of Appeals Chief Judge Robert M. Bell last month asked the Judiciary's Rules Committee to study the doctrines of contributory negligence and comparative fault in court disputes.” Effectively this doctrine couuld overturn years, actually decades of legislative hearings that have consistently rejected Comparative Fault.
Does that sound fair? Transparent?
Well that is exactly the risk we are facing and why we needed to support this legislation. I am proud to say one of the two CPAs in the legislature, Gail Bates (R- District 9A) is one of the sponsors of this bill – Thanks Gail!
Yesterday was the 49th day of Maryland's 90-day session of the 428th General Assembly and we were there to testify in support of HB 1129 Maryland Contributory Negligence Act in the House Judiciary Committee.
We were joined by over 25 lobbyists, business groups, non-profits, insurance associations and even state & local governments in support of this bill. The broad coalition included The Maryland Retailers, Maryland Chamber of Commerce, NFIB Maryland, and of course us, the Maryland Association of CPAs.
The picture above is the scene as we entered the House Office Building yesterday at 1:00 pm and here is the picture when we left the hearing at 9:00pm!
Our testimony was short and to the point (wise at the end of a very long day for the lawmakers).
Here is the essence of what we said:
“We support this bill for three reasons – Risk, Uncertainty, and Transparency.
Why would over 150 CPAs come top Annapolis at their busiest time of year? To talk to legislators about the issues most important to them. Retaining Contributory Negligence is one of our top five issues for 2011. This law will make sure that this important legal foundation does not get changed without our members being able to express their views to this body.
There is risk that the Judicial branch could change this without the open process of legislative process.
Changing this legal doctrine will create uncertainty in this fragile economic environment and hurt Maryland's business, non-profit, and government sectors.
This bill insures transparency about one of the most important issues in the Maryland legislature.
Our 10,000 members urge you to support HB 1129 with a favorable report from this committee.
See the Daily Record coverage from the hearing here (and on twitter @ExhibitABalt)