Legal list-serves: A collaborative brain trust of legal knowledge

Everyone needs a little help now and then including your attorney - but from that collaborative brain trust comes knowledge

Posted by DPLA on December 19, 2011 - (Original post reserves all rights to image)
Posted by DPLA on December 19, 2011 - (Original post reserves all rights to image / no infringement intended)

WASHINGTON, Oct. 17, 2015 – Attorneys often use list-serves as group email vehicles that allow members to share information or ask a question simply by posting their question to the group. The entire group can see the post and any group member can reply knowing that his or her comment is public for anyone to see.

Attorneys use list-serves to make inquiries of each other about cases, expert witnesses, reputations of defense attorneys, judges and a host of other things, including requests for help with problem or unusual cases.

Erin Brockovich, Julia Roberts and Class Action Lawsuits

The following are some selected Virginia and Maryland attorney list-serve conversations. The names of the attorneys in the conversations have been omitted for obvious reasons.

The point of sharing these conversations in this column is simply to showcase the fact that, despite the clear and well-deserved belief that attorneys know everything (ahem….), most of what is known, in fact,  is a result of a great deal of work and research, not to mention frequently consulting others on a variety of topics.


A severely drunk restaurant-bar patron struck the client’s head with a bottle. The physical damages are extensive. The allegation is that the restaurant-bar knew the bad actor was drunk. But the business kept serving him and knew something like this could happen. There is no special relationship that I can see and I’ve read the Thompson case.


I think you get the special relationship because your client was a customer & business invitee of the restaurant. Check out Thompson v. Skate America, Inc., where the S. Ct. found that a special relationship “undoubtedly” existed between the business and the plaintiff as an invitee.

The hurdle is establishing that the restaurant either (1) had a method of business operations that attracted or provided a climate for assaultive crimes or (2) had knowledge that criminal assaults are occurring or about to occur, indicating an imminent probability of harm to an invitee. As (another attorney) mentioned, check out Gupton v. Quicke, where the assaulter confronted the plaintiff and an argument ensued that included threats of harm against the plaintiff. The assaulter was then escorted outside where he attacked the plaintiff.

Also look at whether the staff at the restaurant made any statements to the plaintiff that they would take care of it or do anything to defuse the situation. If you have that evidence you can then invoke Burns v. Gagnon, for the argument that they (1) assumed the duty and that (2) any duty that is assumed must be conducted non-negligently.


If a tenant is ordered to vacate the premises, but there are 4 months left on the lease, is the tenant still liable for those 4 remaining months even though he is evicted?


Depends on the written lease agreement and the reason for the landlord’s action.


Client purchases vehicle for $12,000, signs a promissory note at 32%. Client makes the payments and the Dealer sends him a monthly balance statement. Dealer sends him a note saying, congratulations, the balance on the note is zero.

Eight months later, the Dealer says that he miscalculated the interest, and Client owes him an additional $4,700 as a result of  “miscalculated,” but now due, interest.

What effect, if any, does the Dealer’s running balance, eventually showing a zero balance, have on whether the Dealer can collect (assume that the Dealer’s math is correct)?

First Response

Are the usury laws no help? You might find an estoppel in there somewhere, but there must be an actual change in position.

Second Response

What was the written contract between the parties?  He can’t normally get a windfall like that on a commercial agreement unless it is void etc.

If you are lucky the agreement might be flawed and you find some reason for his reliance on the statements of the creditor.

Third Response

Sounds like they amended the contract through a course of conduct. I wonder if any judge would give the “balance” on that rate.


I settled a negligence case.  This was Thursday. Insurance adjuster sends Release and I forward it to client on Monday.

On Monday, client says he has had a flare up of injury and wants see Dr. before signing Release. (This client is a reliable individual, who would not frivolously try to squeeze more money out of the case.  I say this only because I think that is the first thing that would come to many minds). Client goes to doctor who orders an X-ray, and then, a CT. If the CT shows something that might require additional surgery, what are my options?

I did agree to a settlement, with my client’s prior authority, but the Release has not been signed.  Is client bound by that verbal settlement agreement?


Client and you are bound, if insurer wants to hold you to it.

America’s not-so-popular Death Sentence


An infant’s case settled in 2006 in NY, but the mother and child moved to Maryland while the claim was pending. The carrier settled the case pursuant to Maryland law, but without a court order. The mother deposited the funds into an appropriate account at a bank in Maryland. The child has now turned 18, but the bank will not release the funds without a court order. The problem is that neither the mother, nor the attorney, nor the bank can locate any of the paperwork. (The lawyer mistakenly purged his file a while ago.) Seeking advice on how to go about getting the funds released.

First Response

File a motion in the Orphans Court seeking an order to release the trust funds to the child, who has now reached the age of majority, with an affidavit in support of the motion.

Second Response

Call the Register of Wills for the County, and ask the Clerk. 8 times out of 10, they’ll give some sage advice, particularly when it’s an uncontested matter, but needs to be “cleaned up.”   They may suggest a Limited Order, or something similar.

Also, be aware that there are some new Rules taking effect on January 1, 2016.

Third Response

The bank is wrong – see Maryland Code, Estates and Trusts, §13-405.

Fourth Response

Doesn’t the statute expressly say no court order is required to pay the money at 18?  Is the bank refusing to follow the statute? (I ask because I have found that many bankers don’t know the statute and things have been cleared up after I faxed it to them).


Have you seen an interrogatory like this before?

(Interrogatories are written questions attorneys ask of the “other” party to a lawsuit, part of the “discovery process” used in the preparation of a case. The following “question” is asking about damages in an injury claim).

INTERROGATORY NO. 12:  If you claim damages for loss of consortium, set forth in complete detail the facts on which each of the following grounds of your claim for such loss is based, and state the extent of damage claimed and the method by which you computed to determine this amount:

  1. Loss of companionship of spouse;
  2. Loss of society of spouse;
  3. Loss of affection of spouse;
  4. Loss of assistance of spouse;
  5. Loss of sexual enjoyment with spouse.

Would love to hear some creative responses. But seriously interested in how others have responded to this interrogatory.

First Response

It is Friday after 4:00 P.M., do you REALLY want some creative responses????

Second Response

I feel like they are begging for you to refuse to answer 12(e).  So they can file:



And Request for Hearing

Third Response

So, nobody is thinking about producing a “day/night-in-the-life” DVD, after (or before?) objecting?

Ok, so I already have my Friday libation in hand…


Yes, attorneys are always seeking truth and knowledge. Who better to seek them from than other attorneys?


Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, and has been practicing since 1980.  He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website

His book “The 8 Critical Things Your Auto Accident Attorney Won’t Tell You” can be instantly downloaded, for free, on his website:

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Paul Samakow
Attorney Paul Samakow brings his legal expertise and analysis from the trenches of the courtroom to Communities Digital News. A native Washingtonian, Samakow has been a Plaintiff’s trial lawyer since 1980 practicing in the DC metro area. Paul can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email @ [email protected], or through his website @ He is also available to speak to your group on numerous legal topics.