Through his fearlessness, selflessness, confidence, faith, and determination, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. changed this country. He, alongside many others, created a country where, today, perhaps the quickest route to being a pariah is to say something undisputedly racist.

However, throughout his thirty-nine years on this planet, Dr. King didn’t merely focus on eliminating racial injustice: he also focused on eliminating economic injustice.

In his autobiography, he wrote about his early years:  

I had also learned that the inseparable twin of racial injustice was economic injustice. Although I came from a home of economic security and relative comfort, I could never get out of my mind the economic insecurity of many of my playmates and the tragic poverty of those living around me. During my late teens I worked two summers … in a plant that hired both Negroes and whites. Here I saw economic injustice firsthand, and realized that the poor white was exploited just as much as the Negro. Through these early experiences I grew up deeply conscious of the varieties of injustice in our society.

Dr. King did not defeat economic injustice, not by a long shot.

Look no further than the current Maryland law that limits the amount of money an individual may recover in a lawsuit for their pain, for their loss of the enjoyment of life, for their emotional suffering. The amount is absurdly low, $845,000.

The clear import of the law capping damages is to lower the amount of money insurance companies have to pay to injured individuals.

Ultimately, insurance companies, their large shareholders, and their executives benefit. Ordinary folks suffer.

Speaking about a law that allowed for housing discrimination in California, Dr. King wrote, “The atrociousness of some deeds may be concealed by legal ritual, but the destructiveness is felt with bitter force by its victims.” His words would perfectly describe Maryland law capping damages for, among other things, physical pain. And that’s just sad.

However, let’s keep in mind Dr. King’s success in fighting racial injustice. That success should inspire us all to continue fighting difficult battles for justice that have yet to be won.

Happy MLK Day!

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Trailblazing Lawyer: Charlotte E. Ray

One of the wonderful things about Maryland’s location is that it is close to the nation’s capital, close to where so much history has occurred. Picture a historic event that happened in DC. You probably imagined an event that occurred on or near the National Mall; maybe you imagined the March on Washington, Barack Obama’s first inauguration, or the 2017 Women’s March.

But, in pockets of DC that are miles away from the Mall, history has also occurred–albeit with less fanfare. For instance, at Howard University, young folks have made history. They have made history in the legal world. In fact, Howard’s students have played a pivotal role in the history of the legal world.

Howard’s law school counts Thurgood Marshall as a graduate. While he wanted to attend the University of Maryland’s law school, the school didn’t accept him because he was black. He attended Howard instead. He, of course, went on to become the first black US Supreme Court justice.  

Howard University’s law school also counts Charlotte Ray (born 1850) as a graduate. Upon graduating from Howard in 1872, she became the first black woman in the US to receive a law degree. She passed the bar and began practicing law that same year. She opened her own law firm. But, after practicing for only a few years, her firm failed because of prejudice against blacks and against women.

Still, she was a pioneer. And it’s hard to overstate the amount of guts and grit she must have had to break new ground–less than a decade after the end of American slavery–in a legal world dominated by white male judges, lawyers, and jurors.

She, at least partially, cleared a path for so many future black lawyers to comfortably walk down.

Black History Month is a fitting time for black lawyers, like me, to recognize the contribution of trailblazing black women like her.

After all, we are her offspring.

A Black Lives Matter March vs. Med Mal Laws

In past posts, I’ve written about the absurdly low cap on non-economic damages in Maryland medical malpractice cases (the cap for, among other things, physical pain, grief, and the loss of the enjoyment of life).

I have urged state lawmakers to eliminate the cap–to bring Maryland in line with many other states.

Well, there has been some movement … in California.

Well, California is like Maryland: both states have a cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases, and the caps are ridiculously low.

In past posts, I’ve noted that these low caps are an underappreciated civil rights issue.

Folks in California are beginning to treat it like such. Read the report and watch the video:

Damages Cap Reform for Pets in Md.? Are Humans Next?

In past posts, I’ve written about the absurdly low cap on non-economic damages in Maryland personal injury cases; I’m talking about the low cap for, among other things, physical pain, grief, and the loss of the enjoyment of life.

I have urged state lawmakers to eliminate the cap–and thereby bring Maryland in line with all of its neighbors.

Well, there has been movement. It appears state lawmakers may make a change in the damages cap–but, not for us humans, for our pets.

There is a bill in the Senate that “increases, from $10,000 to $25,000,  the  maximum  amount  of  compensatory damages that may be awarded to the owner of a pet from a person who tortiously causes an injury to or the death of the pet under specified circumstances.”

Now, I don’t want to dismiss the bill, because (1) it relates to pets, not humans, or (2) most pet lovers would consider a $25,000 cap to be too low. The bill represents a modest improvement on existing law, which may help some pet owners to find justice.

I do want to, however, ask: why stop with pets? Why not move on to reform the cap on non-economic damages?

Go ahead and ask your state senator this very question.

Changing Med Mal Damages Cap in Virginia? What’s Up with Maryland?

In Virginia, a bipartisan group of senators is leading an effort to “cancel the cap,” to eliminate the cap on damages that can be recovered by an injured person in a medical malpractice case. This is a big deal. For the residents of Virginia and also for the efforts or the hope that it could inspire in neighboring states,  like our state of Maryland.

Virginia, right now, has one of the strictest, most unjust, most ridiculous caps on damages that injured people can recover if they’ve been injured on account of a doctor, or a nurse, or a hospital’s negligence.   

The cap limits the damages a person can recover to a little over $2,000,000.

Now, $2,000,000 is a lot of money from one perspective. I think a lot of people would be happy to have $2,000,000 in the bank, but $2,000,000 isn’t as great as it once seemed to be. Most of us realize this, especially when we see news anchors talk about stimulus bills that are worth 1.9 trillion dollars every evening. Further, when the cost of healthcare continues to rise, when the cost of treating conditions caused by the medical malpractice continues to rise, $2,000,000 often seems downright unfair.

If someone is injured by a doctor’s negligence, by a doctor’s failure to exercise the requisite skill, and then the injured person’s attorney proves in court that the injured person will have future medical costs of 10 million dollars, then $2,000,000 begins to feel like pennies.

The injured person and their family will be on the hook for the other $8,000,000. Meanwhile the injured person–due to the doctor’s negligence–might not be in the physical or mental state to earn any money, let alone $8 million.

A misdiagnosis, a screwed-up surgery, a delivery doctor missing signs of fetal distress, or various other forms of medical malpractice can leave a patient needing medical care for the rest of their life.

And that’s why it’s so important that people in Virginia applaud the state senators who are fighting to eliminate the damages cap.

Now, Maryland also has a statute that limits the amount of compensation a plaintiff can receive for certain damages in a medical malpractice case. While not as bad a Virginia’s cap, it also is unfair to victims and should be eliminated.

New Research Shows Black Doctors Matter for Black Babies

An article this weekend in The Washington Post brought attention to a new study about race-based differences in US infant mortality. The article, which is worth reading in its entirety, revealed the results of the study.

Through the study, its researchers determined that the rate that black infants die drops dramatically–over 50%–when the infant was delivered by a black doctor.

When black doctors delivered them, the infant mortality rate fell from 430 deaths per 100,000 live births to 173 death per 100,000.

In a previous blog post, I mentioned the large disparity between black infant mortality rate and that of white infants. One of the researchers of the study highlighted by The Washington Post gave an opinion on the cause of this disparity: the root of the problem is structural racism, she said. She went on to define structural racism as the “normalization and legitimization of an array of dynamics–historical, cultural, institutional and interpersonal–that routinely advantage Whites while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color.”

As to why black doctors seem to outperform their white counterparts, the researchers wrote that more research is needed to understand.

Georgia Runoff Results Should Inspire Us

Reverend Raphael Warnock made history last night. He made change. He did so by winning a Senate seat in Georgia. He will be the first black senator to represent the state. After about two and a half centuries, he will be the first!

Some of Rev. Warnock’s new colleagues, or maybe Warnock himself, will have an office in the Russell Senate Office Building. The building was named after Richard Russell, a senator who served from 1933 to 1971. He represented the people of Georgia, the same people Rev. Warnock will represent.

In an interview, historian Robert Caro, the writer of those great Lyndon Johnson biographies, referenced Russell’s stature in the Senate:

After [Lyndon Johnson] was elected to the Senate—before he was even sworn in—he sought out Bobby Baker, a 21-year-old cloakroom clerk, because he had heard that Baker knew “where the bodies were buried.” And what did he want to ask Baker? Not what the Senate rules were but who had the power. Bobby Baker told Johnson that there was only one man in the Senate who had the power—Richard Russell.  

While Russell was a titan of the Senate, he was also a racist.

Historian Gilbert Fite, who wrote a biography of Russell, noted:

White supremacy and racial segregation were to him cardinal principles for good and workable human relationships. He had a deep emotional commitment to preserving the kind of South in which his ancestors had lived. No sacrifice was too great for him to make if it would prevent the extension of full equality to blacks.

Is it astonishing that there is still a Senate office building named after such a racist SOB?


We see the failure to grapple with, to wrestle with, to take down racism in various aspects of American life.

Even today, the healthcare system in the United States is biased against black patients. Numerous studies reveal this bias. Yet not much is done about it.

On top of that, laws that allow patients to get redress for medical negligence are so often configured to benefit doctors, huge hospitals, and profit-focused insurance companies.

But, surprisingly enough, there is reason for hope. Rev. Warnock’s election–about 50 years after Russell’s last days in the Senate–is a sign that change is possible. Certainly, change is worth fighting for.

As a Patient, a Black Doctor Is Struck by Racial Bias in Healthcare

The simple truth is that the healthcare system in the United States is biased against black patients. Numerous studies, some of which have been the subject of posts on this blog, reveal this bias. But, let’s face it, many people are unaware of this bias, and many people who are aware don’t regard eliminating the bias as a priority. Look no further than a recent leaked video call between Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and civil rights leaders: in the 100-minute call, there was not a single specific mention of racial bias in the healthcare system.

If–during the darkest days of a global health crisis–neither civil rights leaders, nor the black vice president elect, nor the Democratic president-elect mention racial bias in the healthcare system, are these biases really that significant?

They are! A tearjerker of an article in The New York Times¸ “Black Doctor Dies of Covid-19 After Complaining of Racist Treatment,”makes this answer plenty clear.

The article tells the story of a 52-year-old, black patient fighting coronavirus. From her hospital bed, the patient, with oxygen tubes going into her nose and teary eyes, held her smartphone and hit record. In the video, the patient relayed an experience that many black Americans may find as relatable as being mistreated by the police: she relayed her dissatisfaction with the medical treatment she was receiving.

But hang on a minute. This was not an ordinary patient. What separated this patient from most is that she herself was a medical doctor.  

Rest in Peace, Dr. Susan Moore

In the video, which went viral after she posted it to Facebook, Dr. Susan Moore said, among other things, that a white doctor at the hospital had downplayed her complaints of pain. He told her that he felt uncomfortable giving her more narcotics to treat her pain and suggested that she would be discharged from the hospital. She said, in the video, “I was crushed.” She continued, “He made me feel like I was a drug addict.” She did not get the treatment and the respect she said she deserved.

Did her race have anything to do with it? Mountains of research articles indicate that black patients often receive treatment inferior to their white counterparts, especially when it comes to pain management. In her video, Dr. Moore addressed the question plainly: “I put forth and I maintain if I was white, I wouldn’t have to go through [hoops to get pain medicine].”

But go through it, she did–until she made a viral video. After making the video complaining of the medical treatment, Dr. Moore received care that she said “adequately treated” her pain, and she was eventually sent home.

A little more than two weeks after she posted the video–and just a few days before Christmas– she died. According to her 19-year-old son, she died of complications from coronavirus.

What’s the bottom line?

Until we make it a priority to wrestle with racial bias in medical treatment so many of us and our loved ones will needlessly suffer and needlessly die.

What Can Be Done to Improve Healthcare for Blacks in America

There are many things we can do. From my perspective as an attorney, I’ll mention two.

First, we can and should hold treating doctors accountable. All too often people who are injured by doctors never seek the help of an attorney. Suing a doctor for his or her negligence is about putting justice into business and improving healthcare.

Second, we should urge civil rights organizations, like the NAACP, to push lawmakers–especially those in blue states–to fix medical malpractice laws. For example, in Maryland, lawmakers should lengthen the applicable statute of limitations and eliminate the cap on damages for pain and suffering.

It’s crucial to remember that when black people lose their lives, or limbs, or organs, or loved ones because of racial bias in healthcare and then the law limits their ability to sue and recover substantial damages for the loss, that’s a civil rights issue.

38 Races for Governor in the Next 2 Years–Wow!

After the death of George Floyd earlier this year, a group of black healthcare leaders said the medical system must confront the ingrained biases within the medical profession. For years prior to Floyd’s death, medical research has shown that, in America, blacks receive inferior medical treatment, compared to whites.

In some blog posts, I have pointed out that one way we should aim to fix healthcare inequality is by holding our elected officials, at the state-level, accountable. We should hold them accountable to fix laws that underpin healthcare inequality, such as laws that limit damages, laws that limit the time an injured person must file a lawsuit, and laws that limit liability.

Governors play a key role in state lawmaking. For example, in Maryland, the governor signs bills passed by the General Assembly into law, or she vetoes them, or she allows them to become law by neither signing nor vetoing.

This year–with its health crisis, lockdowns, and debates about immunity from COVID lawsuits–showed just how important governors can be.[1]

Soon many Americans will have the opportunity to choose new governors. As Politico astutely observes, the next two years could dramatically reshape who occupies the governors’ mansions.

According to Politico, “[t]hirty-eight of 50 states—accounting for nearly 85 percent of the U.S. population—will hold gubernatorial elections between 2021 and 2022.”

Maryland is one of them.

Maryland’s Gubernatorial Election

In Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan will not be running for election.  About the race for governor in Maryland, Politico writes:

Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, a Black Republican, has the inside track for the GOP nomination after serving alongside the popular Hogan for eight years. But Rutherford has never been on a ballot on his own, and the GOP primary electorate may seek a Trumpier candidate after Hogan’s record of criticizing the outgoing president.

The article continues:

The flood of Democratic candidates started with long-time state Comptroller Peter Franchot but won’t end there. Reps. David Trone, Kweisi Mfume and Anthony Brown — who lost to Hogan in 2014 — are possible candidates.

It will be interesting to see if the candidates have a plan for reducing race-based disparities in the quality of healthcare hospitals, doctors, and nurses provide. It will be interesting to see if any of the gubernatorial candidates across the nation have a plan.

I’ll be the first to volunteer for or donate to a candidate who does.

[1] Interestingly, some of the nation’s Democratic governors kowtowed to lobbyists and seemingly told ordinary folks to kick rocks: for example, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo bashed proposals to expand Medicare to cover everyone, approved health insurance companies’ steep premium increases during the pandemic, and jumped at the chance to help lobbyists by shielding nursing homes from coronavirus-related lawsuits.

Are Personal Injury Settlements Taxable?

Many personal injury cases end in a cash settlement. You’ll receive the settlement money. But then what happens? Do the state and federal tax men and women get a cut? I’ll answer that in this blog post.

The General Rule

Not all settlements are taxable. In fact, the general rule is that settlements for personal injury claims are not normally taxable by the state or the federal government. (By the way, the same is true about damages awards that are given by a judge or jury at the conclusion of a trial.) Normally, personal injury settlements are used to compensate an individual for expenses like future medical bills. Payment for future medical bills that is taxed would result in a plaintiff not being able to afford the future medical bills with the settlement money. That wouldn’t be very fair.


There are some exceptions to the general rule, to the generally non-tax-exempt nature of personal injury settlements. These exceptions involve

  • Punitive damages
  • Interest
  • Emotional distress or mental anguish without accompanying physical injury.

To make sure that as little of your settlement as possible is not taxed, it is a good idea to hire, for your entire case, an experienced personal injury lawyer.

  • Your Next Step

    Remember, all cases come with statutes of limitations, deadlines to bring the case.  You can get your case underway now. What do you have to lose by setting up a FREE case evaluation?