Maryland Court Discusses Contributory Negligence in Slip and Fall Cases

Spills regularly occur in grocery stores, and if they are not cleaned up promptly, they can lead to slip and fall accidents. While grocery stores can be held accountable for losses caused by their carelessness, they will often try to avoid liability by arguing that the injured party is partially at fault for their harm. In a recent opinion, a Maryland court explained the affirmative defense of contributory negligence and what a defendant must prove to prevail on the defense. If you were injured in a slip and fall accident, you should speak to a Maryland premises liability attorney as soon as possible to determine what evidence you must produce to recover compensation.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff was shopping in the defendant’s grocery store when she slipped and fell in an area that a store employee recently mopped. She sustained knee injuries that required surgical repair. She subsequently filed a premises liability lawsuit against the defendant, arguing that its negligence caused her harm. Following discovery, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing, among other things, the affirmative defense of contributory negligence.

It is alleged that the defendant argued that the knowledge that the floor was wet should be imputed to the plaintiff because there were “wet floor” warning signs in the store. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed.

Maryland’s Contributory Negligence Laws

The appellate court reversed the trial court ruling on appeal. The appellate court explained that a critical element of contributory negligence is the foreseeability of harm. In other words, for the affirmative defense of contributory negligence to be successful, the defendant must show that the plaintiff acted or failed to act with the appreciation and knowledge of the risk of injury associated with their conduct. The knowledge may be actual or imputed. If a person exposes themselves to danger that they have actual or imputed knowledge of, they may be guilty of contributory negligence.

In determining whether the facts are sufficient to deem a plaintiff guilty of contributory negligence as a matter of law, the court must evaluate whether the risk associated with the act in question was so prominent, decisive, and distinct that reasonable people could not come to differing opinions as to whether it constitutes negligence. In the subject case, the appellate court found that the defendant failed to meet this burden of proof, as there was no evidence the plaintiff should have or did encounter the warning signs or otherwise obtained knowledge the floor was wet. As such, it reversed the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Trusted Maryland Premises Liability Attorney Regarding Your Case

Business owners must maintain their properties in a safe condition, and if they don’t and people suffer harm as a result of their carelessness, they may be held accountable.  If you sustained injuries in a slip and fall accident, it is prudent to meet with an attorney. The trusted Maryland premises liability lawyers of Foran & Foran, P.A. possess the skills and experience needed to achieve favorable outcomes, and if we represent you, we will work diligently to help you recover any damages you may be owed. We have an office in Greenbelt, and we regularly represent people in personal injury claims in cities in Prince George’s County and Montgomery County. You can contact us by using our online form or calling us at (301) 441-2022 to set up a confidential and free consultation.



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