Articles Posted in Premises Liability

To defeat a motion for summary judgment in a personal injury suit, the plaintiff must show sufficient evidence exists to support their claim.  In a February 1, 2021 opinion, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland considered a summary judgment motion filed by the defendants in a personal injury case.  The plaintiffs in the case brought their Maryland negligence claim in federal court against the owners of a restaurant after allegedly suffering injuries in a slip and fall accident.

The plaintiffs in the case visited a Maryland restaurant known for having peanuts on the floor.  Complimentary peanuts were served during all hours of operation, and customers were permitted to discard peanut shells on the floor of the restaurant.  While waiting to be seated, the plaintiffs made their way to the restrooms.  Before reaching the restroom, the plaintiff fell on the hardwood flooring and landed on her right hip, with her right foot twisted behind her.  The plaintiff testified that she had oily stains on the right side of her clothing, leading her to believe that she fell in peanut oil.

In their suit, the plaintiffs claimed that the restaurant was negligent by failing to protect her from a dangerous condition that allegedly caused her injuries.  To succeed on their Maryland negligence claim, the plaintiffs must establish: (1) that the defendant was under a duty to protect the plaintiff from injury, (2) that the defendant breached that duty, (3) that the plaintiff suffered actual injury or loss, and (4) that the loss or injury proximately resulted from the defendant’s breach of duty.  Insofar as the plaintiff was a business invitee, the restaurant was required to use reasonable care to protect the plaintiff from from injury caused by an unreasonable risk that she would be unlikely to perceive in the exercise of ordinary care for her own safety, and about which the restaurant knows or could have discovered.  

Continue reading

Property owners generally have a duty to exercise care to protect invitees from dangerous conditions on the premises.  In a January 28, 2021 Maryland wrongful death case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland explained the circumstances under which a property owner may be held liable for the criminal acts of a third party.

The lawsuit was brought by the estates of two teenagers who were shot and killed by an unknown assailant while standing outside of an apartment building owned by the defendant.  Prior to the teens’ deaths, the defendant had known of prior violent crimes occurring outside of the apartment buildings, common areas, and parking areas.  The plaintiffs claimed that in light of the history of crime at the apartment complex, the defendant was negligent in failing to take sufficient security measures to protect them from criminal activity at the complex.  After the circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, the plaintiffs appealed.

In a negligence action in Maryland, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving that the defendant was under a duty to protect the plaintiff from injury, that the defendant breached that duty, and that the plaintiff suffered actual injury or loss as a proximate result of the defendant’s breach of that duty.

Continue reading

For young children, lead-based paint exposure can result in long-term injuries.  In a December 21, 2020 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a personal injury case brought by a plaintiff against a property owner.  The plaintiff alleged that the defendants were negligent in maintaining the property, which caused the plaintiff’s exposure to lead and subsequent injuries related to that exposure.  After a jury returned a $1.7 million dollar verdict in favor of the plaintiff in the Maryland personal injury case, the defendants filed the instant appeal.

The plaintiff in the case had lived with his mother and siblings at the defendants’ property from September of 1996 to February of 1998.  During his childhood, the plaintiff was tested for the presence of lead in his blood on numerous occasions.  After living at the defendants’ property for approximately one year, a blood test revealed that the plaintiff had elevated levels of lead in his blood.  The plaintiff sued the defendants after he reached the age of majority, alleging negligence and other claims.  The plaintiff succeeded on his negligence claim against the defendants, and the jury awarded him $1,725,936.00 in economic damages.

On appeal, one of the arguments asserted by the defendants was that the trial court erred by improperly allowing evidence of Housing Code violations and instructing the jury that such violations established a prima facie case of negligence.  The defendants contended that the evidence was irrelevant and prejudicial.

Continue reading

Under Maryland laws, a business owner has a duty to exercise ordinary care to keep their property safe for customers.  In turn, each customer has a corresponding duty to exercise care for their own safety.  In some negligence cases, the assumption of risk may be a factor in determining the liability of the business owner.  In a December 16, 2020 the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered whether the jury was properly instructed on the issue of open and obvious dangers and the assumption of risk.  The suit was filed by the plaintiff on behalf of her minor son, after he suffered a slip and fall injury at an amusement park operated by the defendant.

The minor in the case was ten years old at the time of the accident.  During his visit to the defendant’s amusement park, he was injured after he fell while crossing a wet wooden pedestrian bridge near a water ride.  The minor’s mother brought suit, alleging that the defendant allowed water from the ride to accumulate on the wooden walkway, which the defendant knew or should have known created a dangerous slipping hazard.  The defendant argued that the wet and slippery condition of the bridge was open and obvious, and therefore, it had no duty to warn or cure the alleged dangerous condition.

After the close of evidence at trial, the defendant requested that the court present its open and obvious defense to the jury on the verdict sheet.  The trial court denied the motion, and the jury was asked to determine four issues: whether the defendant was negligent, whether the minor was contributorily negligent, whether the minor had assumed the risk, and damages.  The jury ultimately found that the defendant was negligent and awarded $45,000 in damages to the plaintiff.

Continue reading

Generally, the plaintiff has the burden of proving the elements of a Maryland personal injury claim.  The evidence used in support of the claim must be admissible under the Maryland Rules of Civil Procedure.  In an October 23, 2020 case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered whether the circuit court erred by allowing testimony regarding a defendant’s salary into evidence.  The defendants brought the appeal after the jury returned a verdict finding the defendants negligent and awarded the plaintiff 2.2 million dollars in damages.

The plaintiff in the case had resided in property owned by the defendants from his birth until he was two years old.  During the plaintiff’s childhood, he was tested three times for the presence of lead in his blood.  Two of the tests taken while he was living at the property at issue revealed elevated levels of lead in his blood.

The plaintiff sued the companies that owned and managed the property and the president of the companies, alleging that their negligence in maintaining the property caused his exposure to and subsequent injuries from lead paint.  At trial, the president was called to testify.  Counsel for the plaintiff asked him to state his highest annual income while working for the defendants.  Over objection, the president provided his salary.  The plaintiff went on to win the case.

Continue reading

Business owners and property holders may be held responsible for injuries caused by their negligence.  In an August 17, 2020 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a Maryland personal injury case arising out of an assault committed against the plaintiff in the parking lot of a bar owned by the defendant.  Following a trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant.  The plaintiff brought the instant appeal, arguing that the circuit court erred by not allowing him to present evidence of prior similar assaults on the defendant’s property.

The plaintiff in the case was with a friend at the bar and restaurant operated by the defendant.  When his friend got into a heated argument with an intoxicated individual, the plaintiff attempted to separate them.  The security officers then intervened and escorted the individual outside of the restaurant.  Security also asked the plaintiff and his friend to leave.  While the plaintiff was walking towards his car, the individual ran across the parking lot and punched him in the head, knocking him unconscious.  The plaintiff was left in a coma with a fractured skull and multiple head injuries.  The plaintiff brought suit against the defendant, alleging negligence and premises liability claims.

In a negligence case in Maryland, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant was under a duty to protect the plaintiff from injury, the defendant breached that duty, the plaintiff suffered an injury, which proximately resulted from the defendant’s breach of duty.  In general, a person has no duty to prevent a third party from causing physical harm by criminal acts, absent a special relationship.

Continue reading

In Maryland, property owners have a duty to protect invitees from an unreasonable risk of harm on their land.  In some situations, this duty may extend to risks arising from intentional or criminal acts of third parties.  In a July 16, 2020 Maryland personal injury case, the Court of Special Appeals considered whether a university had breached its duty to protect a student who was injured in a fight on campus.

The plaintiff in the case was a freshman and student athlete at the university.  The plaintiff witnessed a fight between one of his teammates and a few other students outside his dormitory and intervened in an attempt to break it up.  In the melee, the plaintiff was attacked with a knife.  He suffered several stab wounds, a fractured rib, and a punctured lung that required surgery.

The plaintiff brought a negligence suit against the university, claiming that the university failed to provide adequate security on campus, which resulted in his injuries.  The university filed a motion to dismiss, which was granted by the circuit court.  The plaintiff sought review of that decision from the appellate court.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Contact Information