In April 2012, the Maryland Court of Appeals agreed to determine whether Maryland should adopt the doctrine of comparative negligence.  See Coleman v. Soccer Association of Columbia.  Maryland is one of the few states that adheres to the ancient legal defense of contributory negligence in tort cases.   If a plaintiff in Maryland is found to have contributed to the accident, the defense of contributory negligence bars a recovery.

The harsh result of the application of the defense of contributory negligence is illustrated by this example.  Two drivers collide at a four-way intersection.  Driver “A” suffers a minor injury and Driver “B” suffers a serious injury.  If Driver “B” is determined to be have contributed to the accident, he is not entitled to any compensation.

Most states apply the doctrine of comparative negligence in proportioning fault and damages.   With comparative negligence, the jury must allocate fault between the plaintiff and the defendant.  For example, if the jury determines that Driver “A” was 90% at fault and Driver “B” was 10% at fault for causing the accident, Driver “A” will be entitled to recover 10% of  his damages and Driver “B” can recover 90% of his damages.