Articles Posted in Premises Liability

Presenting sufficient evidence is crucial for a plaintiff to establish a Maryland personal injury claim.  Generally, the trial court will determine whether evidence is admissible, and therefore permitted to be shown to a jury.  In an April 16, 2020 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed some of the disputed evidence in a lead paint case.  The appeal arose from a lawsuit filed by the plaintiff, who alleged that the defendant’s negligence resulted in her exposure to lead paint.  After a trial, the jury returned a verdict finding the defendant not guilty of negligence.  The plaintiff then sought review regarding the admissibility of certain evidence in the case.

The plaintiff in the case had lived at a property owned by the defendants from her birth in 1996 until 2008.  Her mother testified that the plaintiff had learned to sit, crawl, and walk at the property, and would put thing in her mouth that were on the floor, including paint chips and things with paint chips on them.  She also testified that the plaintiff had difficulty in school, specifically problems with focusing and concentrating.

At trial, the plaintiff sought to admit a lead testing survey report relied upon by her expert witness.  The defendant objected in that the report was prepared by someone whom the expert had trained.  The trial court ruled that the expert could testify about the data in the report, but that the report could not be admitted or given to the jury for their interpretation.  At the close of trial, the jury found in favor of the defendant.  One of the issues argued by the plaintiff on appeal was that the trial court had erred by not allowing the lead testing survey report.

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Employers and landowners generally have a duty to keep the property safe for individuals hired to perform work on the premises.  In a May 12, 2020 Maryland personal injury case, the plaintiff sued the owners of a manufacturing plant after falling into a trench on the property.  After the circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, the case came before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland on appeal by the plaintiff.

The plaintiff in the case worked for an independent contractor, who was hired by the defendants to renovate the floor and trench system of their manufacturing plant.  One day, the plaintiff’s supervisor instructed him to see someone working in a different building of the plant.  Once the plaintiff entered the building, he saw someone struggling with a piece of plywood and went to assist him.  The plaintiff picked up one end of the plywood and as he stepped forward, he fell into a two-foot trench.  The plaintiff filed a personal injury suit against the plant owners, alleging negligence.

In Maryland, employers of independent contractors must adhere to the safe workplace doctrine.  Under the doctrine, the employer must warn the employee of any concealed or latent dangers, of which the employer knows or should know with the exercise of ordinary care.  However, an employer or premises owner can discharge their duty to warn employees of an independent contractor by notifying the independent contractor or his supervisory employees of the latent danger.

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As a general rule, negligent landowners are liable to their guests for personal injuries caused by a dangerous condition on their property.  Maryland law allows few exceptions to this general rule, one of which is under its Recreational Use Statute.  In an April 29, 2020 Maryland personal injury case, the Court of Special Appeals considered whether the statute relieved a defendant of liability after the plaintiff suffered catastrophic injuries on his property.

The defendant in the case had constructed several all-terrain vehicle (ATV) courses on the property.  The land was not open to the public, and was used primarily by the defendant to store excavating equipment from his construction company and deposit dirt from construction sites.  However, the defendant hosted an event on the property for family and friends, including the plaintiff, and invited them to ride ATVs and dirt bikes.  While traversing one of the courses on the ATV, the plaintiff was thrown over the handlebars.  As a result of the accident, the plaintiff suffered a spinal injury that rendered him a quadriplegic.

The plaintiff sued the defendant for negligence, alleging that the accident occurred because of the defective design of the ATV course.  The circuit court eventually granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, concluding that he was immune under Maryland’s Recreational Use Statute.  The issue was then brought before the Court of Special Appeals.

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After a person is injured in an accident, it may be difficult or impossible in some cases to determine the exact cause of the accident.  However, if direct evidence of negligence is unavailable, the plaintiff may be able to assert a negligence claim based on res ipsa loquitur.  In an April 8, 2020 Maryland personal injury case, the plaintiff won her negligence suit against a hotel management company by applying the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur.  The defendant appealed the jury verdict and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals reviewed the issue of res ipsa loquitur.

The plaintiff in the case had been staying in an extended-stay suite at a hotel managed by the defendant.  One night, as the plaintiff was in the kitchen, the cabinet over the sink wholly detached from the wall, falling on the plaintiff and pinning her against the counter.  She testified that, immediately following the accident, she had symptoms that included vomiting, loss of balance, headaches, and difficulty speaking, which continued for months thereafter.  As a result of these symptoms, the plaintiff suffered multiple falls and was unable to return to work.

The plaintiff subsequently brought suit against the defendant, basing her negligence claim on res ipsa loquitur.  The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur allows the jury to infer negligence on the part of a defendant from the facts surrounding the injury, even though those facts do not show the exact cause or precise manner in which the defendant was negligent.  Generally, res ipsa loquitur applies in situations where direct evidence as to the cause of the accident is unavailable, or where it rests exclusively with the defendant.

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In Maryland, a property owner has a duty to keep the premises safe for invitees.  The owner may be liable for injuries that occur on their property if they knew or should have known of the danger, and they failed to warn or correct it.  In a February 13, 2020 personal injury case, the issue before the court was whether the defendants had actual or constructive notice of an alleged dangerous condition on their parking lot.  The plaintiff appealed the matter to the Court of Special Appeals when her Maryland slip and fall case was dismissed on summary judgment.

The plaintiff in the case was walking through the parking lot of her subdivision one evening when she slipped on black ice and fell.  As a result of the accident, she suffered a permanent traumatic brain injury.  The plaintiff filed a personal injury suit against her homeowner’s association and property manager, claiming that they negligently failed to maintain the parking lot, which resulted in her injury.  The lower court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, concluding that they did not have notice of the icy condition that caused the plaintiff’s fall.

In Maryland, a landowner has a duty to use reasonable and ordinary care to keep the premises safe for invitees and protect them from injury caused by an unreasonable risk which the invitee would not discover.  The plaintiff in the case owned a home in the subdivision, but the common areas and parking lot of the subdivision were under the control of the defendants.  Accordingly, the appeals court held that the plaintiff was an invitee while she was on the parking lot, and the defendants owed her a corresponding duty of care to keep the parking lot safe.  In order to establish a premises liability claim, however, the plaintiff must show that the defendants knew, or had reason to know of the hazardous condition on the property.

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To establish a negligence claim in Maryland, the plaintiff must show proof of duty, breach, causation, and injury.  Causation generally requires evidence that the defendant’s actions caused her injury.  In a February 4, 2020 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals reviewed the evidence of causation in a personal injury claim.  The issue was brought on appeal by the plaintiff after the lower court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants in a Maryland slip and fall case.

The plaintiff in the case had filed a legal action against the owners of a seafood restaurant.  The plaintiff alleged in her Complaint that she slipped and fell while patronizing the defendants’ restaurant.  She asserted that, as a result of the fall, she suffered injuries including chronic neck pain and numbness and pain in her hands.  The plaintiff sought damages for her injuries, which she argued were caused by the defendants’ negligence.

Before trial, the defendants moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the plaintiff could not prove the elements of causation or damages.  They pointed out that the plaintiff’s medical records were not certified and did not contain any statements by any of her doctors that her injuries were caused by the slip and fall accident.  Nor did the plaintiff have an expert witness to testify as to causation.  In addition, the plaintiff did not provide any medical bills for treatment and expenses related to her injuries.  The lower court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiff appealed.

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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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