Maryland Court Decides Appeal Involving Pedestrian Fall on Icy, Broken Sidewalk

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.

The plaintiff also argued that there was a genuine dispute as to whether the hospital negligently failed to prevent sediment and water runoff from its property from flowing downhill onto the section of the sidewalk on which he fell.  In Maryland, a property owner is under no duty to pedestrians to maintain a public sidewalk abutting its land free from the natural accumulation of snow and ice and therefore is generally not liable for failing to clear the public sidewalk of snow and ice.  However, an exception provides that an owner may be liable if, through its negligence, it adds a new element of danger or hazard, other than one caused by natural forces, to the use of a sidewalk by a pedestrian.  On appeal, the appeals court explained that the plaintiff presented no evidence as to the net effect of rainfall or water flow or the cause of the hazard, as opposed to natural erosion off the side of that hill.  Accordingly, the decision was affirmed.

Foran & Foran, P.A  is a Maryland law firm providing legal representation to individuals who have been injured by the negligence of others.  We can assist plaintiffs in pursuing damages for their medical expenses and other losses in personal injury and premises liability cases, as well as claims under the Maryland Health Care Act.  To learn more about your legal options, call Foran & Foran at (301) 441-2022 or contact us online and schedule an appointment with one of our skilled attorneys.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Plaintiff Wins on Appeal in Slip and Fall Case Against Convenience Store, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published June 5, 2016

Maryland Plaintiff Pursues Negligence Claim Against General Store and Ice Cooler Company, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published December 23, 2016

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