Court Rules City Is Not Required to Inspect Park Benches for Damage in Maryland Premises Liability Case

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.

The court went on to find that, even if the City had such a duty, and even if the City was negligent in failing to inspect the bench and tighten its fastenings every six months, there was no evidence of causation.  This lack of evidence was primarily due to the fact that the reason for the collapse was unknown, as the broken bench had been disposed of before it could be inspected.  The plaintiff argued that a jury could nevertheless conclude from the facts of the case that the collapse was due to alleged wood rot or loose bolts that the City would have discovered upon inspection.

The court explained, however, that without some evidence to support her claim that the bench was defective, the plaintiff could not establish that the City’s failure to inspect the bench was the cause of her injuries.  After considering the plaintiff’s other grounds for appeal, the court affirmed the lower court’s decision granting summary judgment against the plaintiffs.

The Maryland accident lawyers at Foran & Foran, P.A. have significant experience litigating personal injury cases on behalf of negligence victims and their loved ones.  We handle legal claims involving semi-truck and motor vehicle accidents, medical negligence, slip and fall accidents, and more.  Call our office today at (301) 441-2022 or contact us online and request a free consultation with one of our knowledgeable injury attorneys.