Sindler v. Litman, No. 1838 September Term, 2004.

CourtMaryland Court of Special Appeals
Writing for the CourtJames R. Eyler
Citation887 A.2d 97,166 Md. App. 90
Decision Date02 December 2005
Docket NumberNo. 1838 September Term, 2004.
PartiesBruce SINDLER, Individually, etc. v. Honey LITMAN, et al.
887 A.2d 97
166 Md. App. 90
Bruce SINDLER, Individually, etc.
v.
Honey LITMAN, et al.
No. 1838 September Term, 2004.
Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.
December 2, 2005.

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Kathleen M. Meredith (Stephen Y. Brennan, Iliff & Meredith, on the brief), Pasadena, Md, for Appellant.

Kristine A. Crosswhite (Susan E. Smith, Crosswhite, Limbrick & Sinclair, L.L.P., on the brief), Baltimore, MD, for Appellee.

Panel: DAVIS, JAMES R. EYLER, and BARBERA, JJ.

JAMES R. EYLER, Judge.


This case arises out of a motor vehicle accident that occurred on December 7, 1994. In 1997, Barbara Sindler (Ms. Sindler), the occupant of one vehicle, and Bruce Sindler, M.D. (Dr. Sindler or appellant), her spouse, filed a negligence claim in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, seeking compensation for personal injuries and loss of consortium. The defendants were Honey Litman (Ms. Litman or appellee), the operator of the other vehicle, and Jeffrey Litman (Mr. Litman or appellee), her spouse and the alleged principal of Ms. Litman. The court entered summary judgment in favor of the Sindlers on the issue of liability. The pre-trial process was very lengthy, and the case was not tried until September, 2004.

Prior to trial, on July 5, 2004, Ms. Sindler committed suicide, and on July 16, Dr. Sindler filed an amended complaint to include wrongful death and survival claims. Also prior to trial, the circuit court entered summary judgment in favor of the Litmans with respect to the wrongful death claim, on substantive law grounds.

After a jury returned a verdict for Dr. Sindler with respect to survival and loss of consortium claims, the circuit court granted the Litmans' motion to dismiss the entire case based on discovery violations.

On appeal, Dr. Sindler challenges the dismissal of the wrongful death claim on substantive law grounds and the dismissal of the entire case based on discovery abuse. We shall affirm the court's rulings.

Factual Background

In November, 1997, Ms. Sindler and Dr. Sindler filed a complaint in circuit court against Ms. Litman and Mr. Litman, appellees.1 The suit contained a claim by Ms. Sindler for her personal injuries and a joint claim by the Sindlers for loss of consortium.

The Sindlers alleged that Ms. Sindler was stopped at a traffic signal when Ms. Litman collided with the rear of her vehicle. The Sindlers moved for summary judgment on the issue of liability, and on July 14, 2002, the court granted it.

There were several changes in counsel during the pre-trial phase of the case. Appellant's present counsel has been involved only on appeal, and appellees' present counsel has been involved since October, 2000. Several scheduling orders were entered, and several trial dates were set. There were several postponements, and the case was delayed because of continuing medical treatment by Ms. Sindler, because of substitution of counsel for the Sindlers, and because of business and personal conflicts of counsel and the parties.

In January, 1998, appellees propounded interrogatories and a request for documents to the Sindlers. On September 14, 1998, appellees filed a motion to compel and for sanctions, asserting that the Sindlers had not responded to the discovery requests, despite repeated oral and written demands. By order dated October 7, 1998, the court granted the motion and ordered

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the Sindlers to respond within 10 days of the order.

The Sindlers did not comply with the order. In September 1999, the Sindlers provided unexecuted answers to interrogatories and a response to the request for production. The Sindlers later supplemented the responses, but according to the court's rulings, the supplementation was incomplete and untimely. The Sindlers never served executed answers to interrogatories, as required by Rule 2-421.

In 2000, appellees filed motions to compel medical examinations of Ms. Sindler and motions to exclude expert witnesses who had not been identified in a timely manner. The schedule was changed on several occasions. In April and July, 2000, appellees took the deposition of Ms. Sindler.

On April 17, 2000, the Sindlers filed a motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability as to Ms. Litman, and on July 12, 2000, the court granted it. The docket reflects little activity in 2001 and 2002, except for the issuance of scheduling orders, later modified.

On January 3, 2003, the Sindlers filed an expert witness list. In August 2003, appellees filed a motion to compel medical examinations of Ms. Sindler, which was granted by order dated October 8, 2003. In the same order, the court required the Sindlers to identify all expert witnesses by December 31.

In December 2003, the Sindlers served supplemental expert witness lists. On January 7, 2004, appellees filed a motion for protective order with respect to the designations. In the motion, appellees observed that the Sindlers had identified a total of 32 experts, which called into question the ability to keep the then scheduled trial date of March 22, 2004. Appellees requested that the court limit the number of experts and require them to submit to depositions. On January 16, 2004, the Sindlers filed a modified expert list, naming 12 experts, including an expert not previously identified. On January 20, appellees filed a motion to strike the new expert.

On January 22, 2004, the court held a hearing on the motions, and by order dated January 23, postponed the March 22 trial date, rescheduled it for September 8, 2004, and ruled on the motions. The court limited the Sindlers to two medical experts per specialty or claim plus an economist or life planning expert, to be identified by February 23, 2004, and ordered disclosure of all medical records expected to be introduced into evidence. The court also ordered appellees to file an amended expert witness list by March 23, 2004, and ordered that discovery would close on September 8.

Because of Ms. Sindler's continuing treatment and the increase in the nature and extent of her alleged injuries, appellees requested to take a second deposition of the Sindlers. With respect to the nature and extent of injuries, the record indicates that Ms. Sindler was transported to Sinai Hospital after the accident. At that time, she complained of back pain, headaches, and soreness. There was no indication of direct trauma to her head or chest. She was treated and released. According to the initial unexecuted draft of answers to interrogatories forwarded by her counsel, Ms. Sindler, at that time, complained of neck and back strain, temporo mandibular joint pain, headaches, depression, and shifting of a breast implant that necessitated surgery. Over time, additional injuries and symptoms were described in papers filed by her counsel or in medical records. In the expert witness list filed in January 2004, the injuries included traumatic brain injury, thalamus damage, migraine headaches, the need for treatment

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for chronic pain, including laser treatment, the need for a wrist operation and other orthopedic surgery, gastric problems, the need for eye and ear care, a sleep disorder, and the need for physical therapy.

According to an affidavit by a legal assistant in the office of appellees' counsel, which was not contradicted by sworn testimony, the following occurred. The first request to re-depose the Sindlers was in February 2003. The Sindlers' counsel agreed, but it was not accomplished. In November 2003, new counsel entered an appearance for the Sindlers, who remained throughout the trial, but was not active during the trial itself.2 New counsel for the Sindlers agreed to the re-depositions and, for several months in 2004, appellees' counsel attempted to obtain agreed dates. In June 2004, appellees' counsel filed formal notices of deposition for July 6 and 7. In a subsequent telephone conversation between an assistant in the office of the Sindlers' counsel and an assistant in the office of appellees' counsel, they agreed that the deposition of Ms. Sindler would occur on July 7 and that counsel for the Sindlers would get a new date for Dr. Sindler's deposition. On July 1, counsel for the Sindlers objected to the depositions, for the first time, on the ground that the Sindlers had been deposed in 2000. On July 6, the Sindlers' counsel advised appellees that, on July 5, Ms. Sindler had committed suicide.

On June 4, 2004, appellees filed a request for admission of facts and genuineness of documents directed to the Sindlers. The responses were due on or about July 6.3 The Sindlers did not, at any time, file a response, a motion for additional time, a motion to withdraw deemed admissions, or a motion seeking other relief.

On July 16, 2004, Dr. Sindler, as personal representative of the estate of Ms. Sindler and as surviving spouse, filed an amended complaint, containing wrongful death and survival claims. Dr. Sindler alleged that the accident in question caused Ms. Sindler's death.

Also on July 16, appellees filed a motion to dismiss the entire case based on discovery violations. Appellees asserted a history of discovery abuses but primarily relied on the refusal of the Sindlers to be re-deposed and their failure to supply complete medical records and bills by February 23, as required by the court's January 23, 2004 order. On July 23, appellant filed an opposition to the motion, asserting that the Sindlers had substantially complied with discovery and that they had forwarded medical records as they had become available and would continue to do so.

On July 26, 2004, appellees filed a motion to dismiss the wrongful death claim on the ground that suicide is not a legally cognizable basis for a wrongful death claim because it is barred as a matter of law and/or that the evidence in this case did not support the claim. On August 3, 2004, appellant...

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54 practice notes
  • Young v. Swiney, Civil Action No. ELH–12–3657.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • May 30, 2014
    ...agree that, in the context of this case, the relevant standards regarding proof of causation are found in the case of Sindler v. Litman, 166 Md.App. 90, 887 A.2d 97 (2005). See, e.g., Mem. at 7–10; Opp. at 12–14. Sindler arose from a motor vehicle accident in 1994, involving Ms. Sindler and......
  • Young v. Swiney, Civil Action No. ELH–12–3657.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • May 30, 2014
    ...agree that, in the context of this case, the relevant standards regarding proof of causation are found in the case of Sindler v. Litman, 166 Md.App. 90, 887 A.2d 97 (2005). See, e.g., Mem. at 7–10; Opp. at 12–14. Sindler arose from a motor vehicle accident in 1994, involving Ms. Sindler and......
  • Sacchetti v. Gallaudet Univ., Civil Action No. 15-455 (RBW)
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • April 20, 2016
    ...act that precludes a finding that a given defendant is, in fact, responsible for the decedent's death."); see alsoSindler v. Litman, 166 Md.App. 90, 887 A.2d 97, 109–10 (2005) ("Under the proximate cause analysis, the general rule is that ‘one may not recover damages in negligence for the s......
  • McDougald v. Spinnato, Civil No. ELH-17-2898
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • March 15, 2019
    ...impulse' that deprives the person of the capacity to govern the person's own conduct in a reasonable manner." Sindler v. Litman, 166 Md. App. 90, 111, 887 A.2d 97, 109 (2005). Sindler arose from a motor vehicle accident in 1994, involving Ms. Sindler and her husband. Ms. Sindler sustained m......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
54 cases
  • Young v. Swiney, Civil Action No. ELH–12–3657.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • May 30, 2014
    ...agree that, in the context of this case, the relevant standards regarding proof of causation are found in the case of Sindler v. Litman, 166 Md.App. 90, 887 A.2d 97 (2005). See, e.g., Mem. at 7–10; Opp. at 12–14. Sindler arose from a motor vehicle accident in 1994, involving Ms. Sindler and......
  • Young v. Swiney, Civil Action No. ELH–12–3657.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • May 30, 2014
    ...agree that, in the context of this case, the relevant standards regarding proof of causation are found in the case of Sindler v. Litman, 166 Md.App. 90, 887 A.2d 97 (2005). See, e.g., Mem. at 7–10; Opp. at 12–14. Sindler arose from a motor vehicle accident in 1994, involving Ms. Sindler and......
  • Sacchetti v. Gallaudet Univ., Civil Action No. 15-455 (RBW)
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Columbia
    • April 20, 2016
    ...act that precludes a finding that a given defendant is, in fact, responsible for the decedent's death."); see alsoSindler v. Litman, 166 Md.App. 90, 887 A.2d 97, 109–10 (2005) ("Under the proximate cause analysis, the general rule is that ‘one may not recover damages in negligence for the s......
  • McDougald v. Spinnato, Civil No. ELH-17-2898
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • March 15, 2019
    ...impulse' that deprives the person of the capacity to govern the person's own conduct in a reasonable manner." Sindler v. Litman, 166 Md. App. 90, 111, 887 A.2d 97, 109 (2005). Sindler arose from a motor vehicle accident in 1994, involving Ms. Sindler and her husband. Ms. Sindler sustained m......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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