New Rule Regarding Ad Damnum Clauses in Complaints

Rule 2-305 of the Maryland Rules of Civil Procedure was recently amended to prohibit a party from praying for a specific amount of money damages in excess of $75,000.00.  For claims less than $75,000.00, a party is required to plead a specific dollar amount.   The $75,000.00 figure was used in the rule since it is the minimum amount required to create diversity jurisdiction for civil actions in federal court.  The amended rule has created some significant changes that affect both parties and practitioners.  First, defendants will no longer have to live with the fear and stress associated with exorbitant ad damnum amounts that have no basis in reality.  This effect appears to be the primary goal behind the amendment.  Second, failure to comply with the Rule’s requirements may provide proper grounds for a motion to dismiss, which in cases where limitations have expired, may prove fatal to a plaintiff’s claim.  As such, plaintiff’s counsel and defense counsel should be aware of the rule and make sure it is being complied with in each case.  Third, the lack of a specified damages amount takes away the bright line test for determining whether a case is an “excess” case vis-à-vis an insured’s policy limits.  This can have numerous implications for all parties involved in a personal injury case and possibly those who may have an interest in the action (i.e. uninsured/underinsured motorist carriers).