Articles Posted in Premises Liability

Maryland trip and fall accidents can cause severe injuries, particularly for elderly individuals.  In some instances, an injured person may be able to recover their damages in a personal injury suit.  In a January 3, 2020 negligence case, the plaintiff brought suit against the City of Baltimore after falling on a public sidewalk.  After the lower court granted summary judgment in favor of the City, the matter was appealed to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

The plaintiff in the case was injured as she was walking along a sidewalk and tripped and fell on an elevated portion of the sidewalk.  The plaintiff suffered serious personal injuries to her face and mouth as a result of the fall and incurred over $15,000 in medical expenses, including orthodontic surgery to repair damage to her teeth.  She was 80 years old at the time of the injury.

In her suit, the plaintiff alleged that the City negligently attempted to repair the sidewalk, and as a result, the sidewalk was uneven.  The City argued that the sidewalk defect was so slight, that it was non-actionable under the triviality doctrine.  The City also argued that the plaintiff failed to produce evidence that it had notice of the defect before the plaintiff’s accident.

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To survive a summary judgment motion, the plaintiff must show that there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury could find in her favor.  In a December 26, 2019 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals reviewed a personal injury claim against the City of Baltimore (City) to determine whether the lower court erred in granting summary judgment against the plaintiff.  The plaintiff in the case alleged that she was sitting on a public bench when it collapsed underneath her.  She filed a personal injury suit against the City, claiming that was injured as a result of its negligence in maintaining the bench.

To succeed on a negligence claim, the plaintiff must prove that the City was under a duty to protect her from injury; that the City breached that duty; that the plaintiff suffered actual injury or loss; and causation.  Because the plaintiff’s claims were based on premises liability, she must also prove that a dangerous condition existed, and that the City had constructive or actual knowledge of the risk of danger.

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the City was under a duty to inspect the bench, and by failing to do so, the City breached its duty to her.  To establish the element of duty, the plaintiff pointed to the website of the bench manufacturer, which recommended that the connections on the bench be checked and tightened at least every six months.  The appeals court held, however, that the manufacturer’s recommendations, alone, were not sufficient to establish that the City had a duty to inspect the bench regularly.  Further, it did not prove that failing to inspect the bench for loose bolts would constitute negligence.

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In some personal injury cases, it can be difficult for the plaintiff to identify the facts leading up to the accident and explain exactly what caused the injury that he or she suffered.  In a recent Maryland slip and fall case, the plaintiff’s testimony did not directly implicate how the defendant was at fault for her injury.  However, the matter was decided her favor on appeal.

Upon entering a grocery store owned by the defendant, the plaintiff in the case asked a store employee where the rice was located.  The employee, who was re-stocking shelves in one of the aisles, pointed to an upper shelf.  A surveillance video captured the scene, showing that multiple boxes were lined along the right side of the aisle in which the employee and plaintiff were standing.  The video also showed that after the plaintiff got the rice from the top shelf, she turned around and appeared to trip over a stack of boxes.

The plaintiff brought a personal injury suit against the grocery store and the employee, alleging negligence.  The case went to trial, where the plaintiff testified that she fell after catching her foot on something, although she could not identify what it was.  At the close of the plaintiff’s case, the circuit court entered judgment in favor of the defendants, ruling that the plaintiff failed to present a prima facie case of negligence.  The plaintiff appealed the decision to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

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In general, a business may be held responsible for known dangerous conditions on its property that injure another person, if the business owed that person a duty of care.  In a Maryland premises liability case, the standard of care is determined by the status of the victim.  As a result, the question of whether the victim is an invitee, social guest, or trespasser may make a difference in the outcome of a negligence claim.  In a November 21, 2019 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered this issue as a matter of first impression, as it related to an eight-year-old child injured in the common area of a condominium complex.

At the time the injury occurred, the child and his younger brother were visiting their grandparents, who resided in one of the condo units.  While playing in a common area of the complex, the children climbed atop of a community sign made of large stones.  As they dismounted, they held onto one of the stones, which dislodged and caused the boys to fall to the ground.  The stone fell on top of the eight-year-old child, who suffered serious injuries as a result.

The plaintiff brought a negligence suit against the owner of the condominium complex and the condominium association on behalf of his eight-year-old child.  After the lower court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, the plaintiff appealed.

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Grocery stores and many other businesses have a duty to take reasonable precautions against foreseeable dangers.  If a store breaches its duty, it may be held liable in a Maryland premises liability claim for an injury caused by its negligence.  In a November 5, 2019 personal injury case, the plaintiff sued a grocery store for an injury involving one of its displays.  When the circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, the plaintiff appealed to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

The defendant’s store is marketed as a cost-effective approach to grocery shopping.  Rather than placing items on shelves for display, open shipping boxes are stacked on the floor or placed on wide shelves with other opened and unopened boxes.  Customers often take shipping boxes to use to carry their purchases, as the store does not provide bags.  The plaintiff in the case was standing in a check-out aisle of the defendant’s store, which was lined with stacked and open shipping boxes.  The plaintiff alleged that two glass jars fell from a display and smashed into the floor next to his feet.  Startled, the plaintiff jumped, causing him to twist his right leg and tear a muscle.

To assert a successful negligence claim, the plaintiff must prove the elements of duty, breach, injury, and causation.  In Maryland, businesses such as the defendant have a duty to warn customers of known hidden dangers, a duty to inspect the premises for dangers, and a duty to take reasonable precautions against foreseeable dangers.  This duty applies to dangers and unsafe conditions created by the business, as well as dangers that may be caused by the negligent acts of its employees or other customers, where the business should have anticipated the possible occurrence and results of those acts.

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After some types of accidents, it may be difficult for a person to remember the circumstances leading up to their injury, or understand exactly how it occurred. In a recent Maryland negligence case, the plaintiff could not remember the events leading up to a fall that resulted in a traumatic brain injury.  She filed suit against the owners of the store and strip mall where she was injured, alleging negligence claims.  The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland decided the matter in an October 22, 2019 decision.

The plaintiff in the case suffered a head injury as she exited a store located in a strip mall.  Although the plaintiff did not remember anything about the accident, the store owner was present at the time.  He testified that while he did not see the plaintiff fall, he saw her backing out of the door with her hands full.  Shortly thereafter, he saw the plaintiff on the ground and went to help her.  Two days after the fall, the plaintiff was hospitalized with a hematoma, consistent with having fallen and struck her head, and underwent emergency surgery.

The plaintiff filed a negligence action against the defendants, alleging in the complaint that her injuries were caused by a defective door.  Specifically, she alleged that the door suddenly and without warning flung open as she exited the store, causing her to fall and hit her head onto the concrete sidewalk.  The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, concluding that there was no evidence of any defect in the door, nor that she fell due to an issue with the door.  The plaintiff subsequently appealed the decision.

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In Maryland, most individuals and entities may be held liable for personal injuries caused by their negligent conduct.  However, in situations involving alleged negligence on the part of the government or state officials, the concept of immunity may be a consideration.  Recently, the Court of Special Appeals decided whether or not governmental immunity applied to a local county in a September 16, 2019 Maryland negligence case.

The plaintiff in the case had enrolled her son in youth swimming lessons offered by the County at a public park.  After dropping her son off for his lesson, she walked through the park with her younger child strapped to her front in a baby carrier.  As she traveled through a blacktop, gravel area in the park, her foot came into contact with a water pipe that was reportedly protruding above the gravel.  She fell forward onto her hands and knees, injuring herself and her child.

The plaintiff then brought a lawsuit against the County, claiming that its negligence in maintaining the park caused the injuries to her and her child.  The County filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that it was immune from suit for any injuries resulting from its maintenance of the park due to governmental immunity.  The circuit court agreed and granted the motion based on case law establishing that the maintenance and operation of a public swimming pool by a local government is a governmental function.  The plaintiff appealed that decision to the higher court.

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As a general rule, people may be held liable for damages arising from an injury caused by their negligence.  The injured party may pursue a legal action against the negligent party by bringing a Maryland personal injury claim.  In rare cases, however, the defendant may be relieved of their legal responsibility for the plaintiff’s injury, if the plaintiff exposed themselves to the risk of harm.  The issue of assumption of risk was explored in detail in a July 11, 2019 case before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

The plaintiff in the case operated a restaurant inside a business plaza owned by the defendants.  To reach the back door of her restaurant, the plaintiff had to enter through the loading dock behind the building and walk through a common hallway shared by other businesses.  On the day of her injury, the plaintiff was holding a twelve-pack of soda in each hand and had her handbag on her shoulder as she entered the common hallway to reach her restaurant.  She observed sheets on the floor and deliverymen moving mattresses on the right side of the hallway.  Reportedly, the plaintiff proceeded walking on the right side of the hallway when her foot caught on the sheeting and she fell, breaking her knee.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendants, alleging negligence.  The defendants the moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff assumed the risk of walking over the sheet as a matter of law.  The plaintiff asserted that she had no knowledge that the sheet, although irregular and lumpy, was dangerous or hazardous.  The lower court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

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Under Maryland premises liability law, a landlord may be held responsible if its negligence caused a personal injury to a tenant.  In a March 1, 2019 case, the plaintiff filed a Maryland negligence claim against his landlord after he was assaulted on the premises.  A lower court held that under the circumstances alleged by the plaintiff, the defendant did not have a duty to protect the plaintiff from criminal activity.  The plaintiff appealed the ruling to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

The plaintiff in the case paid the defendant a monthly free to park his ice cream truck on its premises.  After parking his truck one night, the plaintiff was robbed and shot multiple times by two armed assailants.  The plaintiff argued that, due to a prior robbery that had occurred in the parking lot several years ago, the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty to protect him from the foreseeable risk of harm of the robbery.

In Maryland, a negligence claim requires four elements:  (1) the defendant was under a duty to protect the plaintiff from injury, (2) the defendant breached that duty, (3) the plaintiff suffered an injury, and (4) the injury was caused by the defendant’s breach of duty.

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In some Maryland personal injury cases, the plaintiffs may have multiple, alternative theories of negligence that could establish the defendant’s liability.  The case cannot be dismissed before trial unless the defendant shows that the plaintiffs could not prevail on any of their theories.  In a February 26, 2019 case before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, the plaintiffs argued that their alternative theory of negligence had not been addressed by the circuit court when it dismissed their case against the defendants.

The plaintiffs in the case had attended a celebration held by the Baltimore Ravens and the City of Baltimore for their Super Bowl victory in 2013.  A victory parade was planned from City Hall to the stadium, where fans were invited to a free event following the parade.  On the day of the event, the stadium had reached capacity before the parade even started.  The stadium gates were ordered closed by the fire marshal, but remained unlocked in case of an emergency.  The plaintiffs were standing outside the stadium when someone announced that the gate near them was open.  A crowd then surged toward the gate, knocking over and trampling the plaintiffs, injuring them both.

The plaintiffs filed a negligence action against the Ravens, the stadium owners, and the crowd-control contractor.  The plaintiffs asserted two alternative theories of negligence.  One, that the defendants failed to anticipate the reasonably foreseeable, large crowd they had invited to the stadium, and then failed to take reasonable safety precautions to control the crowd, which created a hazardous condition.  Second, after the unprecedented public crowd had arrived, the defendants failed to warn of the danger, or to make a reasonable effort to eliminate the danger.  The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, finding that the defendants did not have notice of any dangerous conditions at the stadium.

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