Maryland Court Determines Whether Plaintiff Assumed Risk of Icy Parking Lot in Negligence Case

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.

On appeal, the court noted that the danger of slipping on ice is one that a reasonable adult must be taken to appreciate.  The court noted that the plaintiff admitted that there was snow and ice next to her car and had contacted the defendants about it.  The court then concluded that, since the snow and ice was patently obvious, and a reasonable person would have appreciated the risk of slipping on that ice and snow, the plaintiff assumed the risk of injury.  The court went on to find that the plaintiff’s action was voluntary and that she was not trapped, since she had a clear path to walk from her condominium.  As a result, the appeals court affirmed the summary judgment ruling.

The negligence attorneys at Foran & Foran can help Maryland plaintiffs pursue a legal claim against the businesses and individuals responsible for their injuries.  We handle a range of personal injury cases, including premises liability lawsuits, medical malpractice claims, wrongful death actions, motor vehicle collision cases, and more.  To discuss your legal options with an experienced injury attorney, call Foran & Foran at (301) 441-2022 or submit our online form and schedule a free consultation.

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

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