Maryland Increased the Jurisdictional Limits to Demand a Jury Trial From $15,000 to $25,000 

August 2023 • Source: DeCaro, Doran, Siciliano, Gallagher & DeBlasis, LLP

On Tuesday, November 8 of 2022 Maryland voters voted to approve a constitutional amendment to increase the minimum amount in controversy that guarantees a jury trial from $15,000 to $25,000.  This change went into effect as of December 4, 2022.   

The $30,000 amount in controversy limit for District Court was not amended as part of the ballot measure meaning that cases with amount in controversy between $25,000 and $30,000 have the option of remaining in District Court for a bench trial or being pled up to Circuit Court for a jury trial. The Maryland Association for Justice, whose members are primarily plaintiff’s attorneys supported the measure along with the Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA).  Richard Montgomery III, the director of Legislative and Governmental Relations for the MSBA argued that:

The MSBA has found that civil claims with lower amounts in controversy cannot be litigated economically in the circuit courts. Generally, when those claims require testimony by medical experts, the high costs of those expert witnesses, as well as the expansive discovery in the circuit court combine make such cases unduly expensive to pursue. The result is that often plaintiffs with smaller claims face unfairly high barriers to justice. Given the ever-increasing costs associated with asserting medical claims, we believe the time has come to adjust the amount in controversy thresholds.”[1]

The American Property Casualty Insurance Association Political Action Committee (Insuring America PAC), the Maryland Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, the Maryland Defense Counsel and the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies PAC all opposed the measure and issued papers outlining their opposition. [2],[3],[4],[5]  Robert Glass, the president of the Maryland Association of Mutual Insurance Companies argued that:

“The enactment of this legislation would deprive many defendants in civil actions of the ability to remove an action from the District Court to the Circuit Court, where appropriate rules of discovery would be available. ... We should also note that, in the majority of states, no threshold of any kind exists. Among those states that have thresholds, Maryland is an outlier, with one of the highest thresholds in the Nation. Increasing the threshold now –doubling it – would only upset this balance without a demonstrated need.”[6]

The interesting division of opinions on the issue may be surprising to the average lay person because the organization that supports Plaintiff’s attorneys who represent people against larger corporations and insurance companies are in favor of limiting the right to a jury a trial and the Organizations representing the other side of the “V” in civil lawsuits, the Insurance Companies and corporations oppose the limitation of a right to a jury.

The defense organizations presented concerns about allowing larger cases between $15,000 and $25,000 to remain in District Court where the rules of discovery are limited that often result in challenges to mount a proper defense to case. Additionally, noting that Maryland joins a minority of states that have any jury trial threshold and will now be one of the highest in the country.  Plaintiff’s attorneys, who typically are the strongest proponents of the jury system, raised concerns over the costs associated with prosecuting a small case that result in them not being able to take cases that do not have large damages which creates a barrier to the justice system for the majority of victims of negligence.