Maryland Court Sides with Plaintiff on Appeal in Black Ice Slip and Fall Case

Black ice, sleet, and snow on untreated walkways and parking lots are a leading cause of slip and fall injuries.  In a July 20, 2021 Maryland negligence case, the plaintiff claimed that she was injured after slipping and falling on black ice in the parking lot of her condominium.  She brought suit against the owner and management company of her condominium complex, as well as the landscaping company they hired for snow and ice removal within the common areas of the complex.

The plaintiff alleged that on an early morning in January, she exited her condo and proceeded to walk to her car along a sidewalk that had recently been cleared of snow by the defendants.  The plaintiff stated that she slipped and fell on an area of “black ice” that was not visible because it blended in with the pavement.  In her suit, the plaintiff claimed that the defendants were negligent in failing to remove snow and ice, failing to use salt or de-icing chemicals, and failure to warn, among other allegations.  After the lower court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed the decision on appeal.

To establish negligence in a Maryland slip-and-fall case, four elements must be proven:  (1) the defendant was under a duty to protect the plaintiff from injury; (2) the defendant breached that duty; (3) an injury; and (4) that the injury was the proximate result of the defendant’s breach.  To prove the second element of breach, the plaintiff must establish not only that a dangerous condition existed, but also that the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition, and the opportunity to remove it or give warning.

The pivotal issue in the case was whether the defendants had constructive notice of the existence of black ice where the plaintiff fell.  In her response to the defendants’ summary judgment motion, the plaintiff attached an affidavit of an expert witness in the field of snow and ice management and removal.  The expert opined that the plaintiff’s fall had occurred at the bottom of a slight grade, where snow melt would naturally drain and re-freeze when the temperature dropped at night.

The appeals court concluded that the plaintiff had presented sufficient evidence of a peculiar physical attribute which could suddenly become a dangerous condition.  The court further explained that knowledge of this draining pattern and of the freezing overnight temperatures in January could lead a jury to conclude that snowmelt had collected and frozen where the plaintiff fell, and that the defendants were negligent.  Insofar as the plaintiff had raised a genuine issue of material fact as to the defendants’ constructive knowledge of the black ice, the appeals court reversed summary judgment and remanded the case back to the circuit court for further proceedings.

If you are seeking legal recourse after an accident, a Maryland injury lawyer can advise you of your options.  At Foran & Foran, P.A., we can assist with negligence claims arising out of auto collisions, premises liability accidents, medical malpractice, and more.  Request a free consultation with an experienced attorney by calling our office at (301) 441-2022 or contacting us online.

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