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Maryland Court of Appeals Rules that Money Payable for Personal Injury is Exempt from Execution on a Judgment for Child Suppo

Maryland Court of Appeals Rules that Money Payable for Personal Injury is Exempt from Execution on a Judgment for Child Support Arrearages

In Curtis O. Rosemann v. Salsbury, Clements, Bekman, Marder & Adkins, LLC , the Maryland Court of Appeals reviewed a decision of the Court of Special Appeals affirming the decision of the Circuit Court of Howard County disallowing the ability of a child support judgment creditor from seizing personal injury settlement funds payable to the child support judgment debtor. According to the facts, the child support debtor became injured as a result of a bumpy airline flight for which she received $30,000 for her personal injury. The personal injury settlement funds were held in escrow at the law firm of Salsbury et al. The child support judgment creditor learned of the settlement proceeds and issued an attachment of the funds held in escrow in satisfaction of the child support arrearages owed by his ex-spouse. Upon receipt of the request for attachment, Salsbury et al., on behalf of its client issued a response to the attachment invoking Section 11-504 b(2) of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article claiming that the compensation for this personal injury was exempt and protected under State Law as money payable in the event of sickness, accident, injury or death.

In a 21 page opinion, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that the personal injury funds were in fact exempt and protected against seizure even against a child support judgment creditor. The Court took an exhaustive look at Federal law, numerous court decisions, and public policy concerns and finally determined that if the Maryland State Legislature intended an exception to the exemption statute thus allowing a child support judgment creditor to seize funds payable in the event of sickness, accident, personal injury, or death, then the Legislature could have written that exception into the exemption statute, but did not. Since the Maryland Legislature did not expressly provide for such an exception, the Court of Appeals would not become a "super-legislature" and judicially create an exception which did not appear in the original text of the statute and would not "judicially place in the statute language which is not there, in order to avoid a harsh result." The Court also stated that if the situation brought to light by this case is an oversight of the statute, then it is for the Legislature to correct and not the Court.

This is yet another example of the Maryland high court recognizing its bounds and instituting a logical reasoned restraint in interpreting Maryland State Law.