Maryland Senate Passes S.B. 302
March 9, 2016 By Mark A. Kohl
In the 1993 case of Komornik v. Sparks, the Court of Appeals ruled that punitive damages cannot be recovered when an intoxicated motorist caused a motor vehicle accident. On February 17, 2016, the Maryland Senate passed S.B. 302, which would eviscerate the holding of the Komornik case and permit recovery of punitive damages in certain situations where an intoxicated motorist causes a motor vehicle accident. Specifically, to recover punitive damages the at-fault driver must (1) have an alcohol concentration level of at least 0.15 or refuse testing and (2) have previously been convicted of, or pled to an alcohol-related moving violation within the preceding ten years.
The Senate bill drastically alters the current standard for an award of punitive damages by singling out one class of tortfeasors who would not be in effect subject to the actual malice standard imposed on all other classes of those engaging in negligent behavior. The bill will now proceed to the House of Delegates where similar legislation has failed in the past.