A Double Victory: CSCS Achieves Two Appellate Triumphs

by | Dec 15, 2023

It is with immense pride that we announce two recent victories in cases on appeal. The first victory came in the matter of Tami Browne v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. The Court of Appeals of Maryland aligned with our firm’s interpretation of a Maryland statute, establishing a precedent that significantly enhances clients’ rights in insurance-related matters. Under Maryland law, when an insurance company fails to act in good faith in deciding an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim an individual can ask the Maryland Insurance Administration to intervene. If the Insurance Administration fails to take action to correct the insurer’s misconduct, an individual has the option to seek additional review by the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings and by the Maryland Court. In this case, State Farm argued that only one review is available by either the Office of Administrative Hearings or by the courts, but not by both.

The Court of Appeals ruled otherwise, holding that an individual is still eligible to bring a civil action with the courts against his/her insurance carrier, regardless of whether the individual also sought review from the Office of Administrative Hearings. This ruling expands the administrative remedies available to individuals, without depriving them of their right to a jury trial. This ruling is a crucial victory for the citizens of Maryland, fortifying their legal standing in insurance-related matters.

The second victory came in the matter of Tiruwork Wendemu v. Birihan Tesema. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s award of sanctions against a defense attorney from State Farm, who repeatedly instructed the at-fault driver to not answer questions during her deposition, in clear violation of the court’s rules of procedure. Attorney Stephen Ollar refused to allow such misconduct to go unchecked and asked the Court to require the at-fault driver to appear for a second deposition to answer the questions she was instructed not to answer. Mr. Ollar also requested that the trial court impose monetary sanctions against the offending attorney for forcing our firm to expend considerable time and expense just to require the defense lawyer to follow the rules. The trial court found that the defense attorney had indeed acted inappropriately during the deposition and required that he pay our attorney’s fees in the amount of $6,433.76.

The defense attorney appealed the trial court’s award of sanctions to the DC Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals, however, was not persuaded. The Court of Appeals held that Attorney Ollar’s questions during the deposition were valid, that the defense attorney was wrong to instruct his client to not answer questions and that the trial court’s award of sanctions was appropriate.

We are proud that the these two victories not only ensure justice for our clients, but also shape legal principles that influence future cases that will help other injured parties.

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