Articles Posted in Slip and Fall

Defective, negligently maintained street infrastructure such as broken water meters or crumbling sidewalks can result in serious personal injuries to pedestrians.  In a March 12, 2012 case, the plaintiff in a Maryland injury lawsuit sued a city for negligence after falling on a broken storm drain grate and injuring her leg.  The case came before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland after the trial court entered judgment in favor of the City.

The plaintiff in the case was returning to her car after attending a professional football game.  As she walked among a crowd of fans, the plaintiff stepped onto a broken storm drain grate that was missing one of its metal bars.  The plaintiff’s foot and leg fell through the gap in the storm drain, causing her to fall.  After a fan helped her dislodge her leg from the storm drain grate, the plaintiff was transported to the hospital and underwent surgery on her leg.

The plaintiff brought a personal injury action against the City, alleging that it had been negligent in failing to properly maintain a storm drain and that was part of the street.  At the conclusion of the plaintiff’s case at trial, the City moved for judgment, arguing that there was no evidence that it had actual or constructive notice of the defective storm drain.  The trial court granted the motion, and the issue was presented to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

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In Maryland, the liability of a property owner for a personal injury depends upon the standard of care owed to the injured person.  The standard of care, in turn, depends on the person’s status while on the owner’s property.  In a March 25, 2021 case, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a premises liability claim against a restaurant that was brought by one of its patrons.

The plaintiff in the case had dined at the restaurant with her husband and son.  Unable to find a parking spot in the restaurant’s designated lot, her husband parked in an adjacent parking lot.  The adjacent parking lot belonged to an unrelated limited liability corporation whose tenant had recently vacated the premises.  Upon entering the restaurant, the plaintiff testified that they asked the hostess whether they could park in the lot, and she stated “yes, we don’t have any problems” and “everyone does.”

After dining at the restaurant, the plaintiff and her husband headed towards their car.  Bypassing the paved portions of the lots and sidewalks, they cut across a grassy area of the property owned by the LLC.  After taking a few steps onto the grass area, the plaintiff’s foot landed in a hole that caused her to lose her balance and fall.  The plaintiff filed suit against the restaurant, alleging that they knew or should have known of the condition that caused her to fall when she walked across the grassy area.  The plaintiff did not file a claim against the owner of the adjacent lot and grassy area.

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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.  

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In some cases, Maryland trip and fall accidents may be caused by building design defects, negligent contractors, or careless property owners.  A person injured by a dangerous condition on real property may seek damages from the allegedly negligent or liable party in a personal injury suit, as in a recent case before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.  In its January 6, 2021 opinion, the court considered an appeal filed by the plaintiff after a jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant on her negligence claim.

The plaintiff in the case was working at a model home in Maryland.  As she was leaving the property, she fell on the exterior front steps.  She testified that she stepped down with her right foot onto the first step, then moved her left foot without realizing there was a second step.  In her suit against the landscaping company and concrete contractor, the plaintiff claimed that the steps did not comply with the relevant building code requirements.

Prior to trial, the concrete contractor filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that although it had poured the concrete for the front stoop of the property, it was not involved in the design or installation of the brick steps and walkway.  The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiff’s negligence claims proceeded solely against the landscaping company.  After a three-day trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant.

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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.

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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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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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