Business owners and property holders may be held responsible for injuries caused by their negligence. In an August 17, 2020 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reviewed a Maryland personal injury case arising out of an assault committed against the plaintiff in the parking lot of a bar owned by the defendant. Following a trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant. The plaintiff brought the instant appeal, arguing that the circuit court erred by not allowing him to present evidence of prior similar assaults on the defendant’s property.
The plaintiff in the case was with a friend at the bar and restaurant operated by the defendant. When his friend got into a heated argument with an intoxicated individual, the plaintiff attempted to separate them. The security officers then intervened and escorted the individual outside of the restaurant. Security also asked the plaintiff and his friend to leave. While the plaintiff was walking towards his car, the individual ran across the parking lot and punched him in the head, knocking him unconscious. The plaintiff was left in a coma with a fractured skull and multiple head injuries. The plaintiff brought suit against the defendant, alleging negligence and premises liability claims.
In a negligence case in Maryland, the 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 injury, which proximately resulted from the defendant’s breach of duty. In general, a person has no duty to prevent a third party from causing physical harm by criminal acts, absent a special relationship.
If a special relationship exists, as in the instant case, where the plaintiff was a business invitee, then the business owner has a duty to take reasonable action to protect him against a risk of physical harm when the owner knows or should know that a third party’s harmful actions are occurring or are about to occur. There are three situations in which a business owner may be liable for injuries inflicted by the intentional act of a third person: (1) knowledge of prior similar incidents, (2) knowledge of prior conduct of the assailant, or (3) knowledge of events occurring on the premises.
Here, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant had knowledge of prior similar assaults. The plaintiff sought to introduce police reports of criminal incidents occurring on surrounding properties, but the lower court denied the motion. After reviewing the evidence, the appeals court agreed, finding that none of the incidents were similar in nature to the plaintiff’s assault. The appeals court further found that the defendant had no knowledge of the criminal incidents that had occurred on the other properties. Accordingly, the court affirmed the decision and jury verdict.
If you or a family member have been injured by a negligent person or business, you may have legal recourse. At Foran & Foran, P.A., our Maryland personal injury attorneys can help you explore your options. We represent plaintiffs seeking compensation after automobile collisions, premises liability accidents, medical malpractice, and more. Schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with one of our accident lawyers by calling (301) 441-2022 or contact Foran & Foran online.