Articles Posted in Slip and Fall

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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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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In Maryland, landlords and other property owners owe a duty of care to their tenants and guests, and may be liable for injuries caused by their negligence.  In an October 24, 2019 case, a plaintiff brought a Maryland personal injury negligence claim against the manager of her apartment complex and a paving contractor after she slipped and fell on a resurfaced asphalt parking lot.  The case went to trial.  After the close of the plaintiff’s case, the trial court granted judgment for the defendants on grounds of insufficient evidence of negligence of the defendants and assumption of the risk by the plaintiff.  The plaintiff appealed the decision, and the matter came before the Court of Special Appeals.

The plaintiff in the case had moved her car to a nearby shopping center due to repaving work being done to the parking lot of her apartment complex.  She went to retrieve her car that afternoon and, seeing that the lot was still blocked off, parked on a nearby street.  She began walking on a sidewalk back to her apartment building.  Instead of continuing on that route, the plaintiff stepped on the parking lot to test its condition and found that it was firm.  As she continued to walk across the parking lot, she reportedly slipped on a soft spot and fell on her right arm, injuring her back and head.

In Maryland, the owner or possessor of land may be liable for injuries to invitees by a condition on the land if they:  (1) know or should realize that the condition involves an unreasonable risk of harm to the invitee, (2) should expect that the invitee will not discover or realize the danger or will fail to protect against it, and (3) fails to exercise reasonable care to protect the invitee against the danger.

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Bringing a Maryland negligence claim after an injury may involve specific legal procedures.  A Maryland accident lawyer can guide you through the proceedings and ensure that the correct steps are taken.  In a September 16, 2019 case, the plaintiff attempted to file a claim against the City for injuries suffered as the result of a collapsed temporary water meter.  The issue for the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland was whether proper notice was given to the defendants.

The plaintiff in the case was walking on the sidewalk when he reportedly stepped onto a temporary water meter cover.  The cover, made of wood, collapsed under the plaintiff, causing him to fall and injure his left leg.  In September of 2015, the plaintiff attempted to give notice of his injury to the City by letter, pursuant to the Local Government Tort Claims Act (LGTCA).  The letter, however, was not sent via certified mail, return receipt requested, as required by the local rules.  The letter was ultimately delivered to an unknown address instead of to the City.

In February of 2018, the plaintiff filed a negligence suit against the City and mayor in the circuit court.  The defendants moved for summary judgment, asserting that the plaintiff failed to provide timely notice as required under the LGTCA.  After a hearing on the issue, the circuit court granted the defendants’ motion and dismissed the plaintiff’s claims.  The plaintiff appealed the issue, arguing that he had substantially complied with the notice requirements.

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To succeed on a Maryland negligence claim, the plaintiff must establish each elements of the cause of action.  In addition, the plaintiff may have to address the theories of defense offered by the defendant.  In an April 17, 2019 case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland examined the issue of contributory negligence in a Maryland personal injury action.  The matter was on appeal after a lower court dismissed the plaintiff’s claims on summary judgment.

The plaintiff in the case was injured when he fell into a pothole.  The injury occurred as the plaintiff was walking to a convenience store at night.  In order to avoid debris blocking the sidewalk from a recent fire, the plaintiff crossed into the street.  As he was walking, his left foot went into a pothole and he fell, injuring his finger.  Due to the severity of the injury, the plaintiff’s finger was amputated.

The plaintiff filed a negligence action against the property owner, alleging that it was negligent in failing to divert people from the area of pavement that created a hazardous condition, and in failing to properly maintain the property or warn pedestrians of the dangerous condition.  The defendant argued that the plaintiff was negligent in failing to keep a look out while walking, and as such, could not succeed on his claim against the defendant.

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Holding a local government or municipality liable for negligence may be difficult in some cases.  A Maryland injury attorney can assist plaintiffs by presenting the evidence persuasively to a judge or jury.  In a December 19, 2018 case, the plaintiff filed a Maryland injury claim against the city counsel, local government, and an excavation company following an accident involving a water meter.  The case was brought before the Court of Special Appeals after the trial court granted summary judgment against the plaintiff.

The plaintiff in the case alleged that she was injured when a water meter cover opened and she stepped into the hole.  The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that they had no notice of the allegedly defective water meter lid, nor did they have any duty to inspect in the absence of notice.  The plaintiff contended that the defendants had notice because the excavation company was working in the area to repair water leaks.  She also provided a letter from the city informing the company of the plaintiff’s suit.  The letter contained a handwritten note to “take notice lid is broke” with a date.

In a Maryland negligence claim, the plaintiff must prove that:  (1) the defendant was under a duty to protect the plaintiff from injury, (2) the defendant breached that duty, (3) the plaintiff suffered injury or loss, and (4) the injury proximately resulted from the defendant’s breach of duty.

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Injured plaintiffs may hold individuals, businesses, and entities liable for their negligence in a Maryland personal injury suit.  When the defendant is the county, city, or government, however, the issue of governmental immunity may arise.  In a November 1, 2018 case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered whether a local County was immune from a negligence claim brought by an injured pedestrian.  The County appealed the issue after the plaintiff won her suit and was awarded over $50,000 for her injuries.

The plaintiff in the case was injured when she stepped on a water meter lid that flipped open, causing her leg to fall into the hole.  The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the County, alleging that her injuries resulted from its negligence with respect to the construction, installation, and maintenance of the water meter lid.  At trial, the plaintiff introduced evidence that the County had ignored the requirements of its own design manual regarding the selection and installation of the water meter lid.  The jury determined that the County was negligent, and found in favor of the plaintiff.  The County subsequently filed an appeal, arguing that it was protected from suit by governmental immunity.

While the state of Maryland has absolute immunity from claims with few exceptions, counties are immune only when performing governmental functions, as opposed to proprietary.  Generally, the government’s obligation to maintain and keep streets, sidewalks, footways, and adjoining areas in a reasonably safe condition has been treated as proprietary, whereas the maintenance of public parks and the like has been treated as a governmental function.  In the instant case, the water meter at issue was located on a grassy strip at the end of a sidewalk, but not on a paved location.

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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.

Slip and fall claims often involve nuanced issues, and plaintiffs may benefit from the representation of an experienced Maryland premises liability attorney in such cases.  In an October 11, 2017 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals reviewed a Maryland negligence claim brought by the plaintiff against her condominium association after she slipped and fell on ice in the parking lot of the building.  The defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff had assumed the risk of injury by walking on obviously visible ice next to her car.  After the trial court granted the defendants’ motion, the plaintiff appealed to the higher court.

In February 2014, a series of snowstorms covered the area with 18 inches of snow and sleet.  After the storms subsided, the parking lot of the plaintiff’s condominium building was plowed.  However, a foot of snow had been pushed behind the plaintiff’s vehicle.  The plaintiff emailed the defendants about the problem, but two days later, the snow remained piled around her vehicle.  The plaintiff paid a neighbor to dig out her car so that she could drive to the store.  When he finished, the plaintiff approached the driver side door of her vehicle, slipped, and fell.  The plaintiff fractured her forearm in the fall and underwent two surgeries as a result.

In Maryland, “assumption of the risk” is an affirmative defense that completely bars a plaintiff’s recovery.  The defense is grounded on the theory that a plaintiff who voluntarily consents, either expressly or impliedly, to exposure to a known risk cannot later sue for damages incurred from exposure to that risk.  To establish the defense, a defendant must prove that the plaintiff had knowledge of the risk of the danger, the plaintiff appreciated that risk, and the plaintiff voluntarily confronted the risk of danger.  Maryland courts assess whether a plaintiff had knowledge and appreciation of the risk using an objective standard.  Accordingly, when it is clear that a person of normal intelligence in the position of the plaintiff must have understood the danger, the issue is for the court to decide.

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