Grimes v. Kennedy Krieger Inst., Inc.

366 Md. 29, 782 A.2d 807 (2001)

 

RULE:

In order to establish a claim for negligence under Maryland law, a party must prove four elements: (1) that the defendant was under a duty to protect the plaintiff from injury, (2) that the defendant breached that duty, (3) that the plaintiff suffered actual injury or loss and (4) that the loss or injury proximately resulted from the defendant's breach of the duty. 

FACTS:

The trial court ruled a corporation conducting a nontherapeutic scientific study of lead paint abatement did not have a duty to warn minor volunteer participants and/or their legal guardians regarding dangers present when the researcher had knowledge of the potential for harm and the subjects were unaware of the danger. The appeals court disagreed. Such research programs normally created special relationships and/or could be of a contractual nature, to create duties. Breach of such duties could ultimately result in viable negligence actions. At the very least, there were viable and genuine disputes of material fact concerning whether a special relationship or other relationships arising out of agreements giving rise to duties existed between the corporation and both sets of appellants. Based on the record, no degree of parental consent and no degree of furnished information to the parents could have made the experiment at issue ethically or legally permissible.

ISSUE:

Under Maryland Law, may nontherapeutic research programs under informed consent agreements result to negligence once breached?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

Such research programs normally create special relationships and/or can be of a contractual nature, that create duties. The breaches of such duties may ultimately result in viable negligence actions. Because, at the very least, there are viable  and genuine disputes of material fact concerning whether a special relationship, or other relationships arising out of agreements, giving rise to duties existed between KKI and both sets of appellants, we hold that the Circuit Court erred in granting KKI's motions for summary judgment in both cases before this Court. Accordingly, we vacate the rulings of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City and remand these cases to that court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

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