Glendening Opposes Easing Awards of Punitive Damages
Mercurio, John, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
ANNAPOLIS - Rejecting overtures from Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos and labor unions, the Glendening administration yesterday came out against a bill that would make it easier to win cash awards in product-liability lawsuits.
The bill - introduced by Sen. John Pica, Baltimore Democrat and longtime Angelos ally - would end a 1992 statute that requires a showing of "actual malice" before defendants are ordered to pay punitive damages.
Under the bill, plaintiffs who now must prove that manufacturers knew their products were faulty would need only prove that businesses should have been aware of flaws.
Maryland Business and Economic Development Secretary James Brady told a Senate committee the bill would "send a message that Maryland is not very serious at all about creating a pro-business environment."
Mr. Angelos pushed for the bill after the state's high court ruled in October that 8,555 plaintiffs in a Baltimore asbestos lawsuit could not collect punitive damages awarded them by a jury. Mr. Angelos' law firm represented most of those plaintiffs.
Widows of five men who died from a rare form of cancer caused by overexposure to asbestos appeared during a hearing on the bill yesterday.
But Maryland Chamber of Commerce President Champe McCullough said the bill "is a `Stay away from Maryland' sign and it's a shame it was ever filed. …