Pulse Poll: Most readers say Maryland should dump contributory negligence

(photographee.eu / Depositphotos.com)

(photographee.eu / Depositphotos.com)

Most respondents to The Daily Record pulse poll said Maryland should move away from contributory negligence. About 7 in 10 readers prefer comparative negligence, while the rest want to keep the status quo.

Maryland remains one of just four states where contributory negligence is an absolute bar to recovery in a negligence action. Alabama, North Carolina and Virginia — and the District of Columbia — also use the contributory negligence defense.

Other states recognize comparative negligence, which allows for a determination of each party’s share of the fault.

Should Maryland move away from contributory negligence toward comparative negligence?



117 responses


Contributory negligence promotes individual accountability for the actions of the individual. Individuals should be responsible for the consequences of their own actions and negligence. One need only look to New York and the egregious personal injury suits to find evidence of what happens when individuals are absolved of personal responsibility for their own negligence.

— John Kosogof


Strict contributory negligence is unfair. A defendant may be 99% negligent and a plaintiff 1% negligent and the plaintiff is barred from a recovery for injuries.

—Allan Heneson


The concept of ‘comparative fault,’ would cause defendants in a lawsuit to pay claims when someone else was at fault or negligent. Liability insurance carriers, say general liability premiums and the frequency of lawsuits historically rise when a state changes to comparative fault from contributory.

— Bette Shepherd


Contributory negligence results in more lawsuits and more ways trial lawyers can bring actions resulting in an increase in what is often called, the lawsuit lottery. It also results in increased general and professional liability insurance by professionals and small businesses.

— Tom Hood


Maryland business, insurance and tort law has evolved over the last 100 years with Maryland’s contributory negligence standard in place. Its elimination would disrupt settled law and business practices for many years.

— Tony McConkey


Because I have seen the shifting of financial responsibility from the wrongdoer (i.e., insurance company) to the public/government when the negligence of the wrongdoer outweighs that of the injured person. This imposes a burden on society/government when it should be borne by the insurance industry/company.

— Karen Evans


46 out of 50 states recognize that this common law is archaic and unjust. It is absurd that a victim can be found 1%, 2%, 5% or 10% negligent and be entirely barred from a recovery against a defendant who is 99% , 98% , 95% or 90% at fault. 46 states recognize that that people and businesses alike should be held accountable for their actions, at least to the degree they are responsible (or some version therein). It is unconscionable that Maryland still maintains a “blame the victim” mentality and has refused (thus far) to legislate and override a defense that almost every state in the country has moved on from.

— Annie Hirsch


No change without change to joint and several liability. If a plaintiff should still get some recovery even if negligent, why should a defendant be responsible for ALL of that recovery, even if only responsible for a portion of the negligence? Why don’t you do a study on how many cases are actually precluded from recovery under the theory of contributory negligence? They are very few.

— Teri Leonovich


It is totally unfair for 1% fault to totally disqualify any recovery.

— James Jarman


The current law allows harmful actors to get away with their actions entirely and shifts costs unfairly onto injured victims. Contributory negligence is draconian and unfair as recognized by all but a handful of states. As an example, someone who is 99% responsible for causing a $1 million injury pays zero in Maryland, whereas in most other states they would be responsible for $990,000. It makes no sense and doesn’t deter bad behavior by corporations when they choose to seek profits over safety of our communities. — Aaron Blank

why should people who are 75% negligent get away with their fault and responsibility; time to step up to justice for all Marylanders.

— Jon Lingo


It is an archaic law. Comparative negligence is a fairer way to assess liability and damages.

— Barry Chasen


Not all cases are black or white.

—Gloria Alvares


Contributory negligence allows wrongdoers to avoid responsibility for the irresponsible choices by blaming the victim

— Benjamin Boscolo


Moving from contributory negligence to comparative without dealing with the impacts this would have on other parts of our legal system, such as joint and several liability, would be catastrophic. Making such a big change in a complex legal mosaic will produce irreparable unintended consequences, including insurance chaos.

— Larry Smith


It seems we are about thirty years behind when 46 other jurisdictions have moved that way and makes it fairer for all to show where the fault might lie. Archaic or time to replace, is the best way to describe contributory negligence.

— joel duboff


Tthere are too many changes in the law that would be necessary if changes were made to a single statute. This should be considered only with an overall view of a complete tort reform program.

—David Florin


It is more fair to all parties. Each party (each defendant, then each plaintiff) should be given a percentage of fault so the the people at fault pay their share and their share only.

— Martha Raymond


There is no justice in a legal system which says that a person–and that person’s insurance company–who is mostly responsible for an accident owes nothing to an accident victim because the victim may have done something minimally wrong. Whether a person who is 50% responsible for an accident should receive 50% compensation from the other party might be a topic for discussion, but if one party is only 40% or 30% or 20% or 10% or 1% responsible for an accident, then that party is definitely entitled to be compensated proportionately by the offending party.

— Mickey Burstein


Because we see the misuse of contrib.

— Barry Nace


Plaintiffs are frequently short changed when they are injured with this archaic doctrine. Also, it does seem odd that the overwhelming majority of states have seen fit to adopt comparative negligence.

— Charles Krikawa


The current system works well and represents a fair balance.

— Paul Tiburzi


The contributory negligence standard is out-dated.

— Cornelia Bright Gordon


Contributory negligence encourages people to be careful not to bring harm or injury to themselves or others. What the heck is wrong with that as a public policy? There is only one proponent of abolishing contributory negligence – personal injury plaintiff lawyers. Keep contributory negligence.

— Carville Collins


Contributory negligence is antiquated and only serves wrongdoers by letting them off the hook without responsibility for their negligence.

— David Muncy

I want to maintain joint and several liability

— James Taglieri


There is absolutely no reason, other than our local legislators co-towing to the insurance lobby, that Maryland residents are much less protected from the negligence of others, than those of other states.

— Steve Campen

If a defendant is 90% responsible for causing horrific injuries to a claimant, why should the claimant’s 10% share of responsibility thereby deprive him of recovery for the 90% of his damages provably caused by that defendant? It makes literally no sense. There is a reason that 46 states do not utilize contributory negligence as an absolute bar to a claimant’s recovery. It is FAIR. It does not confer any special benefit upon the claimant, but rather is more ACCURATE in its allocation of fault — and correlating damages — between the parties. The real question is this — why would any jurisdiction NOT aspire to resolve disputes most fairly between the parties?

— Peter Grenier


In contrast to comparative negligence which literally compares & assesses the relative fault if any of the parties, contributory negligence has the effect of abandoning any pretense of equitable treatment for Marylanders injured by reason of the primary fault of a third party. That has to be changed if our justice system is going to make any pretense of actually providing justice to such parties. — Mike Jacobs


Contributory negligence is an abomination. For a state that prides itself on concern for the welfare of its fellow citizens, it makes no sense that we continue to allow 99% negligent persons and corporations to skip out of the courthouse paying no compensation to a victim who might have contributed but 1% to an event. The lack of consequences does not promote safer individual or corporate behavior in this state, and leave victims uncompensated. If they require ongoing care, their future needs may be shifted from the wrongdoer to the state of Maryland.

— Howard Simcox


Comparative negligence is too subjective a standard. Given juries these days, it puts homeowners, businesses, and ordinary citizens at risk for protracted and costly litigation. It will also cause an increase in insurance rates that will be passed on to consumers.

— Maureen Regan


In contrast to comparative negligence which literally compares & assesses the relative fault if any of the parties, contributory negligence has the effect of abandoning any pretense of equitable treatment for Marylanders injured by reason of the primary fault of a third party. That has to be changed if our justice system is going to make any pretense of actually providing justice to such parties.

— Mike Jacobs


Contrib is an excuse used by insurers to avoid payment to victims of injuries. It ignores the realities of life and allows injured people to stay injured.

— Peter Byrnes


Contributory negligence is horribly unfair. It allows defense attorneys to make mountains out of mole hills in order to defeat valid claims. It also drives down the fair settlement values of valid claims because of the unfair risk of going to trial (the defense could get lucky with an invalid contributory negligence defense) that it poses to plaintiffs. It also clogs the courts with valid plaintiff claims because it gives insurance companies an incentive to fight valid claims rather than paying the fair value of those claims. The fact, as you cited, that only 5 jurisdictions in the country still have contributory negligence is objective proof of its draconian unfairness.

— Eric Stravitz


It is ironic that a “progressive” state like Maryland maintains such an unfair vestige of the past. While legislators in this state whine about the impact of policies of the federal government on our citizens and non-citizens alike, they do nothing about policies like contributory negligence that have a direct impact on its’ citizens and which they have the power to correct. The truth is that it is just another example of how special interests, like insurance companies and their lawyers, hold sway over policy makers whose campaigns they fund.

— Kevin Wise


If Maryland were a comparative negligence state maybe our drivers would be more considerate. Helen Smith Not until Virginia and DC also adopt comparative negligence should MD change. Otherwise, many businesses will move their operations.

— Ileen Greene


Horribly unfair outcomes result when fault is not apportioned between the parties.

— Samuel Blibaum


Apparently, the rest of the country has evolved in 172 years. Why hasn’t Maryland?

— Lawrence Greenberg