Evidence Regarding Hazardous Condition in Convenience Store Crucial in Maryland Premises Liability Case

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.

Essentially, the plaintiff must produce evidence that the property owner failed in his duty to reasonably inspect the property and show that if he had, he would have discovered the dangerous condition.  The plaintiff must also demonstrate that the owner created or had knowledge, or should have had knowledge, of the dangerous condition, and that it was present for a period of time sufficient for the property owner to remedy it.

On appeal, the court found that the plaintiff was unable to show whether, and for how long, the rug was upturned prior to her injury, and noted that it was possible she or a recent customer caused the rug to curl up.  Despite the employee’s comment that the rug was up, the statement alone could not provide any indication of the condition of the rug before the plaintiff tripped on it.   The court held that her failure to demonstrate the period of time the rug remained in a hazardous condition was fatal to her negligence claim, and it affirmed the summary judgment.

The Maryland litigation team at Foran & Foran can provide legal guidance to victims and family members after an accident.  We have successfully represented plaintiffs in premises liability actions and other personal injury cases arising out of negligence.  If you are seeking experienced representation, call our office today at (301) 441-2022 or contact us online to arrange a free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Court Decides Appeal Involving Pedestrian Fall on Icy, Broken Sidewalk, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published July 24, 2017

Maryland Plaintiffs Defeat Summary Judgment Order on Appeal in Personal Injury Case, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published January 24, 2017

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