Articles Posted in Premises Liability

In some Maryland negligence cases, it is difficult to determine exactly how the victim’s personal injury occurred.  Legal recourse may nevertheless be possible under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur if the jury could infer that negligence on the part of the defendant was more probable than not responsible for the victim’s injury.  The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland addressed whether the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur applied in a June 25, 2018 case involving an escalator injury.photo_61913_20160323-200x300

The plaintiff in the case was using the escalator in a department store in the mall.  She was injured when the escalator stopped suddenly.  The plaintiff brought suit against the companies which owned, operated, and/or maintained the escalator.  However, the lower court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment because the plaintiff failed to designate an expert witness on the issue of liability.  The plaintiff appealed, contending that, as she had met her burden to apply the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, expert testimony was unnecessary.

In Maryland, a plaintiff seeking to rely on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur must establish that the accident was one that does not ordinarily occur absent negligence, that the accident was caused by an instrumentality exclusively within the defendant’s control, and the accident was not caused by an act or omission of the plaintiff.  If the plaintiff can prove these elements, then the issue of negligence may be presented to a jury, which may then choose to infer a defendant’s negligence without the aid of any direct evidence.

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An accident victim who asserts a Maryland negligence claim against another person or business has the burden of establishing certain legal elements.  A May 10, 2018 decision by the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland discussed the requirements necessary to survive a summary judgment motion by the defendant in a premises liability case.  The question for the court was whether the evidence was sufficient to prove that the defendant was liable for the plaintiff’s injury.Legal News Gavel

The plaintiff in the case was injured at the defendant’s gas station convenience store while buying food and gasoline for her car.  After she had placed a food order from the made-to-order counter, the plaintiff walked toward the exit to proceed with filling her gas tank.  On her way out the door, her foot caught on the rubbed edge of a rug that was upturned, causing her to fall and sustain injuries.  The plaintiff alleged that the employee behind the food counter told her that the rug was up a little bit.  The plaintiff subsequently filed suit against the owner of the convenience store, alleging negligence.

In Maryland premises liability cases, a property owner owes a duty of care to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition.  An owner is only liable for injuries caused to invitees by a condition on the property if he or she knows of the condition, or would have known by exercising reasonable care, and should realize that it involves an unreasonable risk of harm, should also expect that the invitees will not discover or realize the danger or will otherwise fail to protect themselves against it, and furthermore fails to exercise reasonable care to protect them against the danger.  However, the owner is not required to insure the invitee’s safety or constantly patrol the property to discover potential hazards.

In Maryland, careless landlords may be liable for the damage caused by their negligence, including some lead-based paint injuries.  In an April 2, 2018 case, the plaintiff filed a Maryland personal injury lawsuit against his landlords for increased blood lead levels and developmental disabilities suffered as results of exposure to lead-based paint while living in the defendants’ apartment building.  After a six-day trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff and awarded damages in the amount of approximately 1.6 million dollars.Legal News Gavel

The defendants then filed a motion for the court to enter a judgment in their favor or, in the alternative, for a new trial, and they also moved to reduce the non-economic damages.  The trial court reduced the non-economic damages to $1,173,000 but denied the defendants’ other motions.  The defendants appealed to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

The plaintiff in the case had lived in the defendants’ property from the time he was born in 1997.  His blood was tested eight times for lead between 1998 and 2012, and tests revealed elevated blood levels four times while he was residing at the property.  After the lawsuit was filed, the property was tested for lead-based paint.  An expert report revealed lead paint in the door and window casing of the property.  On appeal, one of the defendants’ arguments was that the evidence was not sufficient to support the verdict.

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The lasting effects of lead exposure can be difficult to manage, and even more so when a child has elevated levels of lead in their system.  If the lead exposure was due to the negligence of another person, such as a property owner or landlord, the victim may be able to recover compensation for their injures in a Maryland personal injury claim.  In a March 14, 2018 lead-based paint case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed whether the lower court erred by granting summary judgment in favor of the defendants.  The issue of causation was complicated by the fact that the plaintiff was born with cognitive impairments.Legal News Gavel

While living at a property owned by the defendants, the plaintiff was diagnosed with elevated blood-lead levels.  However, the plaintiff had been born with a certain medical condition, which caused autism-like cognitive impairments.  This complicated the issue, since the cognitive effects of the plaintiff’s pre-existing condition were also the same sort of impairments that can be caused by childhood exposure to lead.  The plaintiff’s mother brought a lawsuit on his behalf against the defendants then, but the claim was dismissed without prejudice.  In an unusual process, the court left open the possibility that the plaintiff could bring the claim again as an adult.  The case at issue was the plaintiff’s second lawsuit against the defendants.

The plaintiff alleged that the additional exposure to lead at the defendants’ property aggravated his medical condition, resulting in a diminished quality of life and cognitive functioning.  He had the support of a medical causation expert, who opined that the lead exposure had aggravated the plaintiff’s existing conditions and reduced his cognition.  Furthermore, the expert stated that the lead exposure substantially contributed to the additional loss of the plaintiff’s cognitive ability, constituting an injury over and above the condition with which the plaintiff was born.  After the lower court granted the defendants’ summary judgment motion, the plaintiff appealed.

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People who have been injured in a retail store or other business may be able to recover their medical expenses and other losses if the accident was caused by negligence.  In a March 14, 2018 Maryland premises liability case, the Court of Special Appeals reviewed an injury claim filed by a plaintiff against a retail clothing store.  After the circuit court had granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, the plaintiff appealed.Legal News Gavel

The plaintiff in the case was injured when she tripped and fell in the defendant’s store.  She alleged that her flip flop sandal became caught on an unsecured transition strip of rubber, which separated a carpeted section of the store from an uncarpeted aisle between departments.  The plaintiff contended that the transition strip was damaged and detached from the ground, creating a dangerous condition for store patrons.

At the time of the accident, the plaintiff was an invitee of the defendant’s store.  In Maryland, there is an assumption that the defendant, a retail establishment, will exercise reasonable care to ascertain the condition of the premises.  In light of this assumption, the defendant has a duty to warn invitees of known hidden dangers, a duty to inspect, and a duty to take reasonable precautions against foreseeable dangers.  In a premises liability case, the evidence must show not only that a dangerous condition existed, but also that the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of it, and that that knowledge was gained in sufficient time to give the defendant the opportunity to remove it or to warn the plaintiff.

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With the state’s abundance of older buildings and housing structures, many Maryland residents have suffered from exposure to lead-based paint. Some Maryland lead paint victims have pursued a negligence claim against their landlords and property owners to recover compensation for their injuries. A December 18, 2017 decision by the Court of Appeals of Maryland is relevant to consider when bringing a claim arising out of lead exposure, particularly against out-of-state insurance companies and property owners.Legal News Gavel

The matter was brought before the Maryland court by the U.S. District Court, before which was pending a lead paint case. The District Court sought an answer to the question of whether the pollution exclusion contained in the defendant’s Georgia insurance policy, which excluded coverage for bodily injuries resulting from the ingestion of lead-based paint, violated Maryland public policy.

The plaintiffs in the case had been exposed to lead-based paint at a property owned by the defendant in Maryland. The plaintiffs brought suit against the defendant and the defendant’s insurance company, claiming that the insurance company was obligated to indemnify the defendant. The insurance company contended that it was under no such obligation, since the defendant’s general liability insurance policy, which was purchased in Georgia, did not cover injuries resulting from pollutants such as lead-based paint. The plaintiffs argued that the exclusion, although valid under Georgia law, was against Maryland’s public policy and could not be enforced in the state.

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Insurance coverage can be crucial if substantial damages are awarded in a personal injury claim. In some instances, the plaintiff must undergo another court battle against the defendant’s insurance company to obtain a judgment. Guidance from an experienced Maryland premises liability attorney is particularly beneficial in cases involving insurance firms, as demonstrated in a July 27, 2017 case.Legal News Gavel

The plaintiff in the case had visited a pub to watch a basketball game. As he was opening the door to exit the pub, he was struck by a bullet. The shooter was neither apprehended nor identified. The pub and the plaintiff reached a consent judgment agreement, in which the pub admitted negligence and agreed to a settlement of $100,000 for medical expenses and noneconomic damages. Thereafter, the plaintiff made a demand on the pub’s insurance company for payment of the settlement, which was denied. The plaintiff then filed an action for breach of contract against the insurance company. The trial court ruled in favor of the plaintiff and awarded damages in the amount of $100,000. The insurance company appealed the decision to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

The policy at issue contained an provision that excluded coverage for bodily injuries arising out of assault and battery. The primary issue for the court, therefore, was whether or not the shooting incident constituted a battery under the policy exclusion. The appeals court noted that there was no evidence regarding the identity of the shooter or whether the shooting was intentional or accidental. The absence of such evidence also raised the question of whether the intent of the shooter must be established to distinguish the injury from one that arises out of an accident. The court answered the question affirmatively, explaining that if evidence of intent was not necessary, virtually all bodily injuries caused by another person would be barred under the policy exclusion, including accidental injuries.

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Failing to follow procedural rules and deadlines set in a court case can result in serious consequences, including dismissal.  In a November 9, 2017 Maryland lead paint case before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, the plaintiff sought to reverse a summary judgment entered by the trial court on her negligence claim, stemming from a missed discovery deadline.legalnews

In the case, the plaintiff alleged that she had been poisoned by lead-based paint while living in a property owned and managed by the defendants.  The plaintiff had identified an expert witness to testify regarding his opinion that the defendant’s property contained lead-based paint and that the plaintiff’s exposure to that lead-based paint caused her injuries.  The plaintiff had also obtained a report from an environmental testing company that found lead in the defendant’s property, but the report wasn’t completed and produced until 14 days after the discovery period closed.

The defendants moved to strike the report from evidence as untimely, and to strike the expert’s testimony on the ground that he lacked a sufficient factual basis for his opinion, i.e., the report.  The trial court granted the motions to strike.  The defendants then moved for summary judgment, based on the lack of expert testimony.  The trial court granted the motion, denying the plaintiff any recovery for her injuries.  The plaintiff then brought an appeal.

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In a Maryland wrongful death action, family members of an accident victim seek compensation for the loss of their loved one.  The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland recently examined the statutory time limits to bring a wrongful death claim in a September 1, 2017 case.  The decedent in the case had been repairing an HVAC unit on the roof of a Maryland restaurant when he fell 20 feet, suffering fatal injuries.  The decedent’s survivors filed a wrongful death action, alleging negligence and premises liability claims against the shopping center, the property management company, and the restaurant.  After the circuit court ruled that Maryland’s statute of repose barred the plaintiffs’ claims, they appealed to the higher court. Legal News Gavel

In Maryland, the statute of limitations provides that a person must file a wrongful death claim arising out of premises liability within three years of the date of accrual of the cause of action.  The statute of repose, however, limits that period to no later than 20 years from the date that the defective and unsafe condition of the property was available for its intended use.  The statute of repose also includes four subsections that indicate situations in which the 20-year limitation would not apply.  The first subsection provides an exemption when the defendant was in actual possession and control of the property as owner, tenant, or otherwise when the injury occurred, as the defendants were in the current case.  The remaining three subsections relate to certain asbestos manufacturers and suppliers.  These four subsections are linked by the conjunction “or.”

The question for the court on appeal was whether the “or” should be interpreted as disjunctive, indicating four separate exceptions, or conjunctive, indicating that the defendant must be in actual possession of the property as well as meet the asbestos-related requirements provided in the other three subsections.  To decide the matter, the court looked at the legislative history, prior amendments to the statute, and case law describing the purpose of the statute.

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In some negligence actions, a defendant’s duty of care can arise from a law enacted to protect the plaintiff and others similarly situated.  In a July 25, 2017 case, the plaintiff brought a Maryland wrongful death action against a fitness center after her husband died from cardiac arrest while playing basketball there.  The plaintiff alleged that the defendant had a duty to use the automated external defibrillator (AED) that it had installed at its facility, pursuant to statutory requirements. Legal News Gavel

The decedent had been playing basketball at the defendant’s facility when he suddenly collapsed.  A fitness instructor employed by the defendant began to administer CPR, while other people called 911.  Although the facility had an AED that was just outside the doors of the basketball court, and despite the fact that the fitness instructor had 20 years of experience in administering life support and resuscitation measures, including the use of an AED, the fitness instructor did not retrieve the AED or ask anyone to retrieve it for her.  When the paramedics arrived, they were notified of the defendant’s AED and used it on the decedent, but they were unsuccessful in resuscitating him.

To prove negligence per se, the plaintiff must show the violation of a law designed to protect a specific class of persons that includes the plaintiff, and the violation must have proximately caused the plaintiff’s injury.  The primary issue before the Court of Special Appeals, therefore, was whether the Maryland statute at issue prescribed a duty of care requiring the defendant to use an AED to provide cardiac defibrillation to someone who has suffered sudden cardiac arrest.

The court first looked at the language of the statute.  The statute at issue was designed to encourage the installation of AEDs in places of business and public accommodation, and ensure that the devices are operable and are used by people who are properly trained to use them.  The statute requires a facility with an available AED to possess a valid certificate from the EMS Board.  To obtain a certificate, the facility must qualify by meeting several requirements, which the defendant in the case had done.

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