Articles Posted in Slip and Fall

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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A negligence claim can arise out of any number of circumstances, including accidents that occur on the property of individuals or businesses due to their carelessness.  These are specifically known as premises liability claims.  In a relevant decision issued on February 23, 2017, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed whether a lower court properly granted summary judgment against the plaintiff on his premises liability claim against a hospital.

In 2007, the plaintiff had visited the hospital to participate in a sleep study.  Early the next morning, the plaintiff left the hospital and walked toward the bus stop.  The plaintiff noticed that the sidewalk outside the hospital was wet with sleet, ice, and mud, but he proceeded to walk through it.  He eventually reached a section of the sidewalk where, beneath the mud and slush, two concrete slabs were joined together unevenly.  Unaware of the differential, the plaintiff tripped over the elevated slabs and fell, suffering a fractured leg and a broken ankle.

The plaintiff brought suit against the hospital, alleging that it had negligently breached its duty to exercise ordinary and reasonable care in maintaining the hospital grounds.  The hospital contended that, although it maintained the area of the sidewalk on which the plaintiff fell, it didn’t own it or owe a duty to the plaintiff.  The trial court held that since the hospital did not own the sidewalk at issue, it owed no duty of care to the plaintiff that would render it liable for his injuries.  On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the hospital’s admission that it maintained the sidewalk created an issue of fact regarding its ownership.  The appeals court disagreed, explaining that the hospital did not waive the issue or concede ownership of the sidewalk when it answered the plaintiff’s interrogatory.

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People who are hurt on the property of another business or individual may be able to hold a negligent party responsible for their injuries, as long as that party owed them a duty of care.  In Woods v. Dolgencorp, LLC (D. Md. Oct. 21, 2016), the plaintiff suffered injuries after tripping on a buckled mat in front of an ice cooler at a general store.  The plaintiff filed a personal injury claim against the general store as well as the business that provided and maintained the ice cooler, alleging it was negligent in properly placing the mat.  The ice cooler defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that it did not owe a duty of care to the plaintiff because it did not own, control, or manage the store at which the accident occurred.  The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland heard the motion.

In Maryland, the elements of a negligence claim are:  (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 an actual injury or loss, and (4) that the loss or injury proximately resulted from the defendant’s breach of the duty.  In premises liability actions, the defendant’s duty is dependent on the status of the plaintiff on the property.  In Woods, as a patron of the store, the plaintiff was an invitee on the premises.  An owner is responsible for harm caused by a natural or artificial condition if the owner knew about or could have discovered the condition through the exercise of reasonable care, or the owner should have expected that invitees would not discover the danger or would fail to protect themselves against it, or the owner invited entry upon the land without making the condition safe or giving a warning.

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In a victory for the plaintiff, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reversed summary judgment in a personal injury case, allowing her to proceed with her suit against the defendant. In Smith v. Rite Aid of Maryland, Inc. (Md. Ct. Spec. App. May 19, 2016), the plaintiff suffered injuries after falling over a tote box on the floor of the defendant’s store. An employee had placed the box next to the checkout counter and against the candy and magazine rack to unload magazines. After checking out, the plaintiff was looking straight toward the exit to leave when she tripped over the box.

The defendant argued in its summary judgment motion that it had no duty to warn the plaintiff of an open and obvious condition. The circuit court granted summary judgment, finding that the plaintiff had seen totes in the store on previous occasions and was not looking where she was going when she fell. The plaintiff subsequently appealed the decision of the lower court. The appeals court ultimately held that the grant of summary judgment was in error for several reasons.

In Maryland, a business owner has a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect customers from an injury caused by an unreasonable risk, about which the owner knows or that the owner could have discovered in the exercise of reasonable care. This duty includes not only inspecting the premises and warning customers of any known hidden dangers, but also taking reasonable precautions against foreseeable dangers. A customer also has a duty to exercise due care for her own safety, including a duty to look at her surroundings. Accordingly, a business owner ordinarily has no duty to warn a customer of an open, obvious, and present danger.

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