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Articles Posted in Premises Liability

Warehouse stores generally offer shoppers a variety of goods at low prices, and many Maryland residents shop in such stores on a regular basis. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for certain areas of stores to fall into disarray, creating hazards that can lead to falls. While stores can be held accountable for harm suffered by their customers in certain situations, they generally will not be deemed liable unless they knew or should have known of a dangerous condition before the harmful incident. This was illustrated in a recent Maryland ruling in which the court dismissed the plaintiff’s negligence claim against a warehouse store because the plaintiff failed to prove notice. If you were hurt in a slip and fall accident, you may be owed damages, and you should speak to a Maryland premises liability lawyer about your potential claims.

The Plaintiff’s Fall

It is alleged that the plaintiff was shopping at a warehouse store owned by the defendant with her husband when she slipped and fell while walking between two circular racks of clothing. The store manager arrived at the scene shortly after the incident and saw an empty hanger lying on the floor and several hangers on the floor under the rack. The plaintiff did not see the hanger before her fall.

It is reported that the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging that its negligence led to her harm. After discovery was complete, the defendant moved for summary judgment. The court found that the plaintiff failed to establish notice as required under Maryland law and ruled in favor of the defendant. Continue Reading ›

Spills regularly occur in grocery stores, and if they are not cleaned up promptly, they can lead to slip and fall accidents. While grocery stores can be held accountable for losses caused by their carelessness, they will often try to avoid liability by arguing that the injured party is partially at fault for their harm. In a recent opinion, a Maryland court explained the affirmative defense of contributory negligence and what a defendant must prove to prevail on the defense. If you were injured in a slip and fall accident, you should speak to a Maryland premises liability attorney as soon as possible to determine what evidence you must produce to recover compensation.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff was shopping in the defendant’s grocery store when she slipped and fell in an area that a store employee recently mopped. She sustained knee injuries that required surgical repair. She subsequently filed a premises liability lawsuit against the defendant, arguing that its negligence caused her harm. Following discovery, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing, among other things, the affirmative defense of contributory negligence.

It is alleged that the defendant argued that the knowledge that the floor was wet should be imputed to the plaintiff because there were “wet floor” warning signs in the store. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed. Continue Reading ›

Personal injuries occurring on construction sites often involve independent contractors, sub-contractors, and their respective employees.  Whether a property owner and/or another sub-contractor on site may be held liable for these types of accidents was the question for the Court of Special Appeals in an October 1, 2021 Maryland wrongful death case.

The case involved the tragic death of a young construction worker who was killed when an excavation wall collapsed on the job site.  The decedent was the employee of a contractor hired by the City to fix a clogged pipe buried deep in the ground.  Although the contractor who employed the decedent was negligent in failing to ensure that the excavation wall was properly supported, legal action against was barred by Maryland workers’ compensation laws.  Instead, the decedent’s family filed suit against the City and another sub-contractor working on the site.  The plaintiffs claimed that the City was liable for the decedent’s death by failing to hire a qualified contractor to properly and safely do the job, and that the sub-contractor was liable by failing to ensure that the work was performed safely and appropriately.

As a general rule, the employer of an independent contractor is not liable for physical harm caused to another by the acts and omissions of a contractor and the contractor’s employees.  The lack of liability is often a major reason one would hire an independent contractor, rather than having one’s own employee do the job.  There are many exceptions under Maryland law, however, which were considered by the court on appeal.

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A Maryland personal injury case may involve many forms of evidence, including witness testimony, medical bills, photographs and/or video, among others.  Generally, non-testimonial items of evidence must be authenticated before they are admitted at trial.  Depending on the type of evidence, authentication may be made by a lay witness, or it may require an expert to lay the foundation.  In a September 30, 2021 premises liability case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland addressed the requirements to admit digital file metadata of a cell phone picture at trial. 

The plaintiff in the case fell on the sidewalk while walking her dogs, suffering a broken right foot, two sprained wrists, and a fractured left knee cap.  The plaintiff alleged that she had stepped on a piece of concrete debris on the sidewalk, which caused her to fall.  She filed suit against the City, which owned the sidewalks, as well as the contractor hired by the City to repair them.

At trial, the plaintiff’s friend testified that after arriving at the plaintiff’s home to take her to Urgent Care, she went outside and took photographs of the concrete debris with her iPhone, which were later admitted into evidence.  The friend also admitted that she had moved the debris so that others would not fall.

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Black ice, sleet, and snow on untreated walkways and parking lots are a leading cause of slip and fall injuries.  In a July 20, 2021 Maryland negligence case, the plaintiff claimed that she was injured after slipping and falling on black ice in the parking lot of her condominium.  She brought suit against the owner and management company of her condominium complex, as well as the landscaping company they hired for snow and ice removal within the common areas of the complex.

The plaintiff alleged that on an early morning in January, she exited her condo and proceeded to walk to her car along a sidewalk that had recently been cleared of snow by the defendants.  The plaintiff stated that she slipped and fell on an area of “black ice” that was not visible because it blended in with the pavement.  In her suit, the plaintiff claimed that the defendants were negligent in failing to remove snow and ice, failing to use salt or de-icing chemicals, and failure to warn, among other allegations.  After the lower court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed the decision on appeal.

To establish negligence in a Maryland slip-and-fall case, four elements must be proven:  (1) the defendant was under a duty to protect the plaintiff from injury; (2) the defendant breached that duty; (3) an injury; and (4) that the injury was the proximate result of the defendant’s breach.  To prove the second element of breach, the plaintiff must establish not only that a dangerous condition existed, but also that the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition, and the opportunity to remove it or give warning.

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In Maryland, a property owner generally is under no duty to protect another person from criminal acts of a third party that occur on the property.  There are exceptions, however.  In a July 2, 2021 wrongful death case, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals explained the kinds of circumstances that would be necessary to hold a property owner liable for crimes committed by a third party against a tenant leasing the premises.

The decedent in the case was killed during a robbery that took place at a retail store while he was working as the manager.  The store was in a Maryland strip mall, where there was a long history of criminal activity on the parking lot, including a murder committed the month before.  The decedent’s family brought wrongful death claims against the owner of the shopping center, alleging that it knew of the dangerous criminal activity and negligently failed to take security measures to protect the occupants of leased premises from foreseeable criminal acts of third persons committed inside those stores.

The circuit court dismissed the plaintiffs’ lawsuit, ruling that, as a matter of law, the shopping center did not owe a duty to protect the decedent from the criminal acts of third persons committed on a store’s leased premises.  An appeal followed.

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When a tenant is injured as a result of a defective condition on the property that they are leasing, they may have legal recourse in certain situations.  In a June 15, 2021 negligence case, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals considered whether the circumstances were enough to hold a landlord liable for alleged injuries caused by a defective staircase.

The plaintiff in the case was a resident and lessee of a townhome owned by the defendant.  On the day of the accident, the plaintiff was walking down an interior wooden staircase of the property to the basement, which she had typically done about six times a week.  The plaintiff alleged that the staircase suddenly and unexpectedly collapsed.  As a result, the plaintiff fell and allegedly suffered severe personal injury.

The plaintiff filed a negligence suit against her landlord, alleging that they were responsible for the inspection, maintenance, care and repair of the premises, including the basement steps.  After the lower court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, the plaintiff appealed the decision.

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In some situations, homeowners may be liable for a personal injury that occurs on their property.  The care they must take to avoid liability depends on the status of the injured party.  In a May 3, 2021 case, the plaintiff filed a Maryland negligence suit against her neighbor after falling down the steps of her neighbor’s porch.  The issue before the Court of Special Appeals turned on the legal status of the plaintiff at the time of her injury.

The plaintiff in the case had returned home from work that day and found she was unable to open her front door.  She walked to her neighbor’s house and her neighbor’s grandson, who had answered the door, lent the plaintiff a metal knife.  After successfully unjamming her door, the plaintiff went back to her neighbor’s house later that day to return it.  After handing the knife to her neighbor, the plaintiff turned to leave down the staircase descending from the front porch.  She lost her balance and fell, suffering serious injuries to her leg.

The plaintiff filed a premises liability suit, alleging that her injuries were caused by her neighbor’s negligent maintenance of the premises.  The trial court granted summary judgment for the defendant, finding that the plaintiff was a bare licensee and that the defendant had not breached any duty to the plaintiff.  The plaintiff appealed that decision to the higher court.

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Defective, negligently maintained street infrastructure such as broken water meters or crumbling sidewalks can result in serious personal injuries to pedestrians.  In a March 12, 2012 case, the plaintiff in a Maryland injury lawsuit sued a city for negligence after falling on a broken storm drain grate and injuring her leg.  The case came before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland after the trial court entered judgment in favor of the City.

The plaintiff in the case was returning to her car after attending a professional football game.  As she walked among a crowd of fans, the plaintiff stepped onto a broken storm drain grate that was missing one of its metal bars.  The plaintiff’s foot and leg fell through the gap in the storm drain, causing her to fall.  After a fan helped her dislodge her leg from the storm drain grate, the plaintiff was transported to the hospital and underwent surgery on her leg.

The plaintiff brought a personal injury action against the City, alleging that it had been negligent in failing to properly maintain a storm drain and that was part of the street.  At the conclusion of the plaintiff’s case at trial, the City moved for judgment, arguing that there was no evidence that it had actual or constructive notice of the defective storm drain.  The trial court granted the motion, and the issue was presented to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

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In Maryland, the liability of a property owner for a personal injury depends upon the standard of care owed to the injured person.  The standard of care, in turn, depends on the person’s status while on the owner’s property.  In a March 25, 2021 case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a premises liability claim against a restaurant that was brought by one of its patrons.

The plaintiff in the case had dined at the restaurant with her husband and son.  Unable to find a parking spot in the restaurant’s designated lot, her husband parked in an adjacent parking lot.  The adjacent parking lot belonged to an unrelated limited liability corporation whose tenant had recently vacated the premises.  Upon entering the restaurant, the plaintiff testified that they asked the hostess whether they could park in the lot, and she stated “yes, we don’t have any problems” and “everyone does.”

After dining at the restaurant, the plaintiff and her husband headed towards their car.  Bypassing the paved portions of the lots and sidewalks, they cut across a grassy area of the property owned by the LLC.  After taking a few steps onto the grass area, the plaintiff’s foot landed in a hole that caused her to lose her balance and fall.  The plaintiff filed suit against the restaurant, alleging that they knew or should have known of the condition that caused her to fall when she walked across the grassy area.  The plaintiff did not file a claim against the owner of the adjacent lot and grassy area.

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