Motion for Continuance: Dagher v. Moreno

Kopec Law Firm

In a lawsuit, the court sets various action deadlines throughout a case. A party seeking to change a deadline files a motion for continuance.

When a party represents himself, the court has to balance competing considerations. The court may have more patience with a pro se party that might not be familiar with the relevant legal principles. However, the court must enforce the rules equally.

Because of the challenge of abiding by complex rules that may be unfamiliar, unfortunately, cases often don’t end well for pro se parties. I will discuss the recent case of Dagher v. Moreno and then provide tips to the pro se party. Although the case involved a motion for continuance of a trial in a car accident claim, the same principles apply to medical malpractice cases. The Appellate Court of Maryland issued an unreported opinion in the case on December 1, 2023.

Circuit Court Motion for Continuance

In Dagher, the plaintiff became pro se after the court granted the plaintiff lawyer’s motion to withdraw. As a side note, a lawyer seeking to withdraw often means a severe problem with the case or a serious situation between the lawyer and the client.

In granting the motion, the court advised the plaintiff to get another lawyer. The court stated that lack of counsel would not be grounds for a postponement. At that time, there was over a month until the trial date. (Op. at 1).

Motion for Continuance of trial
Motion for Continuance

Five days before the trial, the plaintiff filed a motion to postpone the trial because he did not have another lawyer yet. The court denied the motion. On the day of the trial, the plaintiff was in the hospital. The court believed the plaintiff was faking an illness. The defense moved in court to dismiss, and the court granted it. Two days later, the plaintiff filed a motion for continuance and attached the hospital discharge papers. The trial court denied it, stating that the filing had not changed its belief. (Id.)

Appellate Court Ruling

The appellate court noted that whether to grant a motion for continuance is at the trial court’s sound discretion. An abuse of discretion exists when no reasonable person would take the view adopted by the trial court or when the court acts without reference to any guiding rules or principles. (Id. at 1-2).

The appellate court found that the trial court had exercised its discretion in considering the motion. The court had considered the hospitalization against the backdrop of the previously denied motion for continuance on the ground of lack of counsel – a ground that the trial court had specifically said would not warrant a continuance. Then, the court weighed the discharge instructions, which said the plaintiff was admitted at an unspecified time on the day of trial for unspecified chest pain and discharged an unspecified time the next day before concluding the plaintiff had faked an illness to avoid appearing in court. The appellate court found that the trial court did not abuse its discretion. (Id. at 2).

Commentary By the Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Practice Tips on Motion for Continuance

In Dagher, the plaintiff had over one month to get replacement counsel and waited until five days before trial to file a motion for continuance. We don’t know the details of the plaintiff’s attempts to get a lawyer or whether any lawyer would take the case. However, there are a few things that a plaintiff in that position can do to have the best chance for success.

Start searching for a lawyer immediately. It should take little time. The internet is an excellent source for finding a lawyer – most lawyers have websites. Do a search tailored to the specialty you need and your geographic location, e.g., Towson medical malpractice lawyer.

Most good lawyers are quick to respond to potential new clients. Be sure to tell the lawyer about the court’s deadline. Insist the lawyer enter an appearance ASAP so that you can complete your task.

If any circumstance results in you being unable to find a lawyer, let the court know as soon as possible. Document your efforts. Giving the court detailed information early in the process will increase your chances of obtaining more time from the court.

A pro se plaintiff has to be very careful in dealing with the court. Following the above suggestions should help you get a lawyer who can take over the management of the case. If not, you will position yourself for the court to look favorably on a motion for continuance.

Other Cases

  • Ojo v. Cowan Systems, LLC: In an April 5, 2024 unreported opinion, the Appellate Court of Maryland upheld the denial of a motion for continuance filed 12 days before trial. The pro se plaintiff sought time to get a lawyer, but had been proceeding pro se for a long time. Plaintiff did not explain why she was seeking a lawyer at that time or that a lawyer had agreed to represent her.
  • Ritchie v. Damiano: In an November 13, 2023 unreported opinion the Appellate Court of Maryland upheld the denial of a pro se plaintiff’s motion to extend time to respond to motion to dismiss. Plaintiff failed to even contend that he had a basis to oppose the motion.

Mark Kopec is a top-rated Baltimore medical malpractice lawyer. Contact us at 800-604-0704 to speak directly with Attorney Kopec in a free consultation. The Kopec Law Firm is in Baltimore and helps clients throughout Maryland and Washington, D.C. Thank you for reading the Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyer Blog.

What Our Clients Say About Us

At the Kopec Law Firm, we are grateful that satisfied clients express their appreciation!

Mark is a knowledgeable and empathetic lawyer who speaks directly and concisely to evaluate your problem. He doesn't use attorney jargon that confuses people, rather he talks clearly. Although he couldn't help me with my situation, the consultation I had was productive because he answered my questions and gave me some clarity.

Shahnaz in Ellicott City

Dear Mark, I just wanted to express my gratitude for your dedication to my case. As you know, it has been a long and upsetting process for me, which would have been a great deal longer had it not been for the hours you put in helping me with this emotional roller coaster. Thank you again.

Shannon T. in Anne Arundel County

Dear Mark, thank you so much for your help and kindness. You provided the guidance and assistance we needed to obtain some understanding in loss of our child. We will never forget the professional and personal service provided. If anyone is in need of legal representation, I will certainly send them your way. God bless.

Kim C. in Cecil County

I wanted to say thank you for spending time with me regarding my questions about legal issues. Mere words cannot really express my gratitude. You seem to truly care about people.

Client in Baltimore City

Dear Mr. Mark, I’m truly grateful to have had you work on my son’s case. You were up front at all times and were on key every step of the way. I will always recommend your firm. Thank you so much for helping my son. P.S. Every time my son sees you on TV, he says “Mom, that’s my lawyer, Mr. Mark.” 🙂 Thank you again. You did an excellent job on the...

K.N. in Baltimore City

Dear Mark, we want to thank you for all the hard work and time your firm put in our case. You took the time to listen to us and research our case. You were honest and up front regarding the case. You responded to questions and concerns quickly. We would highly recommend your firm and services to anyone who is in need of legal representation. We...

Rebecca T. in Prince George’s County

Super Awesome team and staff! Worked with them for a case they handled for my grandchild about 10yrs ago! Would definitely use them again! I recommend them to everyone I know. Could never thank them enough! Very thorough and knowledgeable! Always kept us in the loop throughout the entire process!!!!

Letha C. in Prince George’s County

Mark explained everything in detail and brought clarity to all of my concerns.

Doris in Edgwater

I am very happy and thankful for your help. You responded very quickly. I am very happy to recommend you.

Linda in Chevy Chase
  1. 1 Free Consultation
  2. 2 Talk to a Lawyer
  3. 3 No Fee Unless You Win
Fill out the contact form or call us at 800-604-0704 to schedule your consultation.

Send Us a Message