Articles Posted in Premises Liability

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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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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