Maryland Court Finds No Evidence of Dangerous Condition in Premises Liability Case

The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland recently ruled on an appeal in a personal injury case that was halted after the court granted a motion for judgment for the defendant at the close of the plaintiff’s evidence at trial. In Bright v. Warehouse Servs., Inc. (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Mar. 28, 2016), the plaintiff was injured while working as a forklift operator in a warehouse operated by the defendant. The plaintiff brought a premises liability action against the defendant, alleging that a defect in a loading ramp caused his forklift to drop, jolting him and resulting in a serious back injury.

The case went to trial. The plaintiff was the only witness to testify about the condition of the defendant’s loading dock. He presented testimony from two medical experts to discuss his damages, although they could not explain what caused the jolt that the plaintiff contended caused his injuries. No witness examined the ramp after the accident to investigate whether it was defective, dangerous, or in need of repair. At the close of evidence, the defendant moved for judgment pursuant to Maryland Rule 2-519. The court granted the motion, finding that the plaintiff failed to prove that the defendant knew of the defect and had the opportunity, if there was a defect, to fix it.

To prove a negligence claim in Maryland, a plaintiff must establish that the defendant was under a duty to protect the plaintiff from injury, the defendant breached that duty, the plaintiff suffered an actual injury or loss, and that loss or injury proximately resulted from the defendant’s breach of the duty. Under premises liability law, the duty of care that is owed by the owner of property to one who enters on the property depends upon the entrant’s legal status. Ordinarily, one entering onto the property of another will occupy the status of invitee, licensee by invitation, bare licensee, or trespasser.  An invitee is a person on the property for a purpose related to the owner’s business, and is owed a duty of ordinary care to keep the property safe. In Bright, it was undisputed that the plaintiff was a business invitee.

On appeal, the court explained that under the law, property owners are not insurers of an invitee’s safety, and no presumption of negligence arises merely because an injury was sustained on the premises. The burden is on the plaintiff to show that a dangerous condition existed, the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge that the dangerous condition existed, and that knowledge was gained in sufficient time to give the owner the opportunity to remove it or to warn the invitee.

In Bright, the appeals court noted that there was no evidence presented that could identify or explain the defect, or prove its existence. Accordingly, the court found that the plaintiff failed to offer sufficient evidence to generate a jury question regarding the cause of his back injury, and it affirmed the trial court’s decision.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a premises liability accident, discussing your case with a qualified attorney can be beneficial in deciding whether to pursue compensation for your damages. The personal injury lawyers at the Maryland firm of Foran & Foran, P.A. provide skilled and aggressive representation to victims of slip and fall accidents, car collisions, medical malpractice, and more. To speak with one of our experienced attorneys, call (301) 441-2022 or contact us online.

More Blog Posts:

Plaintiff Wins Appeal in Maryland Lead Paint Case, Summary Judgment Reversed, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published October 4, 2015

Maryland Court of Special Appeals Affirms Summary Judgment in Slip and Fall Case, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published July 15, 2015

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