Pedestrian injuries may arise from defective or crumbling sidewalks, construction debris, and improperly maintained infrastructure, such as water meters. In an October 20, 2021 case, the plaintiff was injured as a result of a loose water meter cover. When she stepped on the water meter, the lid moved, causing her leg to fall into the hole beneath. The plaintiff was taken to the hospital by her family, where she was treated for her injuries.
The plaintiff filed a premises liability suit against Baltimore City, alleging that it was liable for injuries caused by the dangerous condition of the water meter cover. The jury ultimately found that the City was liable, and awarded damages to the plaintiff. The City subsequently appealed, and the case came before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.
Under Maryland law, before a government municipality can be liable for a dangerous condition, it must have had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition prior to the plaintiff’s injury. A municipality has actual notice when its employees either personally observed the dangerous condition, or were informed of the dangerous condition. Constructive notice occurs when the dangerous condition has existed for so long that the municipality should have learned of it by exercising due care.
The plaintiff in the case presented evidence that approximately two months prior to her injury, a City employee had found a leak in the water system at that location. The plaintiff’s expert witness testified that in order for the City to make such a determination, the employee would have needed to access the water meter, which required removing the cover. The plaintiff also provided evidence that the City owned maintained the water meter at issue, that all water meter lids are secured with a special bolt to limit access, and that the City employees have a special key to unscrew the bolt.
On appeal, the court found that while there was evidence that the City employee had accessed the water meter before the plaintiff’s injury, there was no evidence connecting that access to the water meter becoming a dangerous condition. The court specifically noted the lack of evidence as to how long the cover had been loose, whether or not anyone reported it was loose, whether the employee failed to properly secure the cover, or that the City was aware that the cover was loose.
The appeals court went on to hold that evidence that a City employee opened the water meter, without more, is insufficient to support an inference that the City had either actual or constructive notice of a dangerous condition. Accordingly, the court reversed the verdict and remanded for judgment to be entered in favor of the City.
At Foran & Foran, P.A., our Maryland negligence lawyers can help you determine your legal options after an accident or injury. We have successfully represented people in lawsuits arising out of auto wrecks, construction accidents, slip and falls, and other personal injuries. Call our office at (301) 441-2022 or contact us online and request a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.