Articles Posted in Premises Liability

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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If the careless acts of another person or business have caused you or your child to suffer a physical injury, you may be able to hold them responsible.  In a negligence lawsuit involving an injured child, an experienced Maryland personal injury lawyer can advise parents as to the proper legal action to take.  In a December 7, 2018 case, the plaintiff filed suit against her landlords for injuries that occurred after her rental home became inhabitable due to mold infestation.  The case was brought before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

The plaintiff in the case resided with her young son in a home she rented from the defendants.  She alleged that a few weeks after moving into the home, water began collecting and flooding into the kitchen and den.  Despite her repeated complaints to the defendants, the problem was not resolved and the flooding persisted.  Thereafter, her son began experiencing medical issues, including difficulties breathing, asthma-like symptoms, swelling, and rashes covering his body.  A medical diagnosis revealed that he was allergic to a variety of toxic molds.  Subsequent testing of the house confirmed the presence of extremely high levels of mold.  Fortunately, the son’s conditions improved after they vacated the property.

The parties then pursued breach of lease and eviction proceedings against each other in district court.  After the parties stated that they had reached an agreement to settle the matter, the district court dismissed the action.  Specifically, the understanding was that the plaintiff would not pursue any further claims arising out of the tenancy in exchange for half of the rent escrow funds.  Although the money was disbursed, the parties did not sign a written agreement.

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In some cases, determining which defendants may be held liable for injuries in a Maryland negligence claim is an issue for the courts.  In a November 9, 2018 case, the plaintiff alleged that he contracted lead paint poisoning while living at a property between 1995 and 1996.  The owner of the property had passed away in 1993, and the property was run by the personal representatives of his estate until 1997.  The plaintiff, therefore, sued the personal representatives for his injuries.  Eventually, the plaintiff abandoned his claims against all but one of the defendants.  When the circuit court entered summary judgment in favor of the remaining personal representative, the plaintiff appealed.

The plaintiff had filed claims based on negligence and violations of the Maryland Consumer Protection Act (MCPA), alleging that the defendant, while serving as co-personal representative of the property, had owned, controlled, or managed the property.  On appeal, the issue for the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland was whether the plaintiff could bring suit against the personal representative of the property owner’s estate for lead paint poisoning.

Under the local housing code, property owners and operators have a duty to provide a residence that is free from chipping, flaking, or peeling paint.  In order to be held personally liable for a breach of this duty and any resulting harm, therefore, the defendant must fall under the definition of an owner or operator.

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Childhood lead paint poisoning litigation can be complicated.  In an August 31, 2018 Maryland personal injury action, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland discussed the complexities of proving causation in lead paint cases.  The plaintiff in the case had resided in a house owned and managed by the defendants from his birth in 1997 until 2001.  He filed suit against the defendants alleging injuries resulting from lead paint poisoning.  At the conclusion of a five-day trial, the jury found in favor of the plaintiffs and awarded them over 2 million dollars in damages, which was ultimately reduced to approximately 1.5 million dollars.

The defendants appealed the verdict on multiple grounds, one of which was that the trial court erred by not granting the defendants’ motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff’s negligence claim.  The defendants argued that, at the time of their motion, there was no evidence that the plaintiff had been exposed to any lead-based paint hazards while residing at the defendants’ property.

In Maryland, when a plaintiff alleges negligence based on a violation of a lead paint statute or ordinance, the plaintiff has the burden to present sufficient facts to demonstrate that there was a violation of a law that was designed to protect a specific class of people that includes the plaintiff, and that the violation proximately caused the plaintiff’s injuries.  A violation of certain sections of the Baltimore City Housing Code enacted to protect children from lead paint poisoning satisfies the first requirement.

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In Maryland, a person who suffers an injury due to the negligence of another individual, business, or entity may seek compensation for their losses in a personal injury suit.  If the case goes to trial, the jury will usually decide whether the defendant was negligent based on the proof presented.  In an August 28, 2018 Maryland personal injury case, the Court of Special Appeals reviewed a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff, who was injured during an event hosted by the defendant.  After the plaintiff won her case, the defendants appealed to the higher court.

The defendant in the case was the city board of school commissioners.  The board hosted a retirement party, where the plaintiff was one of several retirees being honored in the cafeteria of a local school.  To provide the retirees with celebratory “red carpet” treatment as their names were called, one of the board’s party organizers placed a red felt aisle runner on the cafeteria floor.  The runner began to bunch up after the first few retirees walked or danced down the aisle, and party organizers attempted to straighten out the runner.  The plaintiff was the seventh person to walk down the aisle.  As she reached the end of the runner, she stopped to take a slight bow.  The plaintiff then stood back up and attempted to continue walking, but fell to the ground.  The plaintiff suffered significant injuries to her hip, which required surgery and a lengthy hospital stay.

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit alleging negligence claims against the board and the individual party organizers.  After a three day trial, the jury found in favor of the plaintiff.  The defendant appealed arguing several grounds for reversal, one of which was that the plaintiff did not present sufficient evidence at trial for the case to be submitted to the jury.  Specifically, the defendant contended that the plaintiff failed to produce any evidence that the party volunteer who provided the aisle runner was negligent, including evidence that the volunteer was informed or had knowledge of any trip hazards associated with the aisle runner.

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An individual who has suffered an injury caused by negligence may have legal recourse against the liable party, as illustrated in an August 17, 2018 case.  The plaintiff in the case was inside a retail store when a motorist lost control of his car and crashed through the fire doors of the building.  The plaintiff suffered serious injuries in the accident, which resulted in the amputation of his leg.  Thereafter, the plaintiffs filed a Maryland negligence claim against the corporate owner of the nationwide store chain, arguing that it failed to take reasonable steps to protect customers against the foreseeable risk of vehicle-building crashes.  After trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff and awarded approximately 6.5 million in damages.

The defendant appealed to the Court of Special Appeals on several grounds, one of which was that the plaintiffs asserted facts that were not in evidence while cross-examining the defendant’s witnesses.  During discovery, the plaintiffs had obtained information from the defendant regarding three prior vehicle-into-building crashes that had occurred at the defendant’s other store locations between 2008 and 2013.  The plaintiff questioned the defendant’s corporate representative about those incidents, as well as a dozen other incidents the plaintiff had discovered.

In general, questions that assume facts that are not supported by evidence already admitted are objectionable.  The appeals court explained that the admissibility of the plaintiff’s questions regarding the prior vehicle-into-building crashes depended on whether these incidents had actually occurred.  Without any proof in evidence verifying that the incidents had occurred, the incidents were not relevant to the case, and therefore, were inadmissible.

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The plaintiff has the burden to prove each element of a negligence claim arising out of lead paint exposure.  In many cases, the plaintiff in a Maryland personal injury case will have an expert testify to assist the jury in understanding the evidence or determining a fact at issue.  In a July 31, 2018 lead paint case, the Court of Appeals of Maryland considered whether a medical study cited by an expert provided a sufficient factual basis for his testimony.  The court also addressed whether an expert could offer an opinion on specific causation by relying on medical study data along with an individualized analysis of the plaintiff’s injuries.The plaintiff in the case sued the owners of a residential property, alleging that his injuries, including mental and attention deficits, were caused by exposure to deteriorating lead paint at the property.  At trial, the parties agreed that, due to the defendants’ negligence, the plaintiff was exposed to lead paint and that the exposure was the cause of the plaintiff’s elevated blood lead levels.  The remaining questions for the jury were whether the lead exposure caused an injury to the plaintiff and, if so, the amount of damages.  The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff and awarded approximately $1.3 million in damages.  The defendants subsequently filed an appeal, arguing that the plaintiff had not sufficiently proven that his alleged injuries resulted in any damages.  The plaintiff contended that the testimony of his expert witnesses satisfied his burden of proof.

In Maryland, an expert’s opinion must be based on facts that sufficiently indicate the use of reliable principles and methodology, which thus support the expert’s conclusions.  The expert must also have a rational explanation for how the factual data led to the expert’s conclusion. On appeal, the court examined the medical studies used by the plaintiff’s experts.  The first expert used medical studies that examined the relationship between ADHD and lead exposure.  The court found that the studies indicated an association between the two, but not causation.  This was significant, since it led the court to conclude that the expert’s testimony suffered from an analytical gap by overstating the known effects of lead exposure.  Lacking a scientific basis, the expert’s testimony was therefore inadmissible.

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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.

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.

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.