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Maryland Plaintiff Alleges Negligence Claim Against Landlord After Staircase Collapse

When a tenant is injured as a result of a defective condition on the property that they are leasing, they may have legal recourse in certain situations.  In a June 15, 2021 negligence case, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals considered whether the circumstances were enough to hold a landlord liable for alleged injuries caused by a defective staircase.

The plaintiff in the case was a resident and lessee of a townhome owned by the defendant.  On the day of the accident, the plaintiff was walking down an interior wooden staircase of the property to the basement, which she had typically done about six times a week.  The plaintiff alleged that the staircase suddenly and unexpectedly collapsed.  As a result, the plaintiff fell and allegedly suffered severe personal injury.

The plaintiff filed a negligence suit against her landlord, alleging that they were responsible for the inspection, maintenance, care and repair of the premises, including the basement steps.  After the lower court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, the plaintiff appealed the decision.

In Maryland, whether a landlord owes a duty to their tenants with respect to a dangerous or defective condition on leased premises, of which the landlord has notice, depends upon the circumstances of the case.  In a multi-unit facility, the landlord has a duty to maintain common areas of the complex in a reasonably safe condition.  As a general rule, however, a landlord is not liable to a tenant for injuries from a hazardous condition on leased premises that come into existence after the tenant has taken possession.  The rationale behind this general rule is that the landlord no longer has control over the premises.

On appeal, the court noted that the staircase at issue was not in a common area.  The court went on to find that, as a preliminary matter, the defendant had relinquished control over the staircase to the plaintiff when she moved in 18 months prior.  Therefore, the plaintiff had the burden to show that the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition, and that the knowledge was gained in sufficient time for the defendant to rectify it, or to warn her of the defective staircase.

After reviewing the evidence of record, the appeals court concluded that the defendant did not have constructive or actual notice of any defect in the stairs prior to their collapse.  The court pointed out that the plaintiff testified in her deposition that she had not noticed any issues with the stairs, other than squeaking, and had never complained to the defendant about the stairs before the accident.  As such, the court held that the plaintiff could not establish a prima facie case of negligence and affirmed summary judgment for the defendant.

At Foran & Foran, P.A., our Maryland injury lawyers can explain your legal options after a premises liability accident or auto collision.  We have the experience and dedication to help you seek compensation for an injury caused by a negligent property owner, driver, or business.  Arrange a free consultation with a qualified attorney by calling our office at (301) 441-2022 or contacting us online.

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