Maryland Plaintiff Claims Water Leak Caused Accident in Negligence Suit Against City

While a significant number of motor vehicle collisions are caused by careless drivers, negligence on the part of non-drivers may play a role in causing a car accident.  In a February 18, 2020 case, the plaintiff filed a Maryland car accident case against the City after losing control of her vehicle on the road.  The plaintiff alleged that the accident was caused by black ice or water from a leaking fire hydrant, for which the City was responsible.  After the circuit court ruled that the City was entitled to summary judgment, the plaintiff brought an appeal before the Court of Special Appeals.

The plaintiff in the case was driving home from the store on a cold morning, traveling around 30-35 mph.  A car pulled in front of her, and she applied her brakes.  At that moment, the plaintiff lost control of the vehicle, and it began sliding and turning.  The vehicle then hit the sidewalk, causing it to flip on its side.  The plaintiff was able to call 911 while trapped inside, and the paramedics arrived to remove her from the vehicle.  In her lawsuit against the City, the plaintiff alleged that water leaking from a fire hydrant had frozen on the roadway.  The circuit court, however, held that she failed to produce evidence that water or ice or some other defect was the cause of her accident.

In Maryland, a plaintiff must establish four elements to state a claim of negligence: a duty owed to him or her, a breach of that duty, a legally cognizable causal relationship between the breach of the duty and the harm suffered, and damages.  Generally, a municipality owes a duty to pedestrians and drivers to make its public streets and sidewalks reasonably safe for passage.  When a person is injured because a municipality failed to maintain its streets, the municipality may be held liable only if it had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition that caused the injury.

On appeal, the court noted that no other cars had encountered icy or dangerous roadway conditions, and that the plaintiff had not actually seen water or ice when she drove down the road approximately 30 minutes earlier.  While there was evidence that the fire hydrant was defective and had been serviced by the City around the time of the plaintiff’s accident, the court found that it was not sufficient to show that hydrant, in fact, created a dangerous roadway condition that caused her accident.  The court concluded that the plaintiff’s testimony regarding ice or water on the road was a theory, rather than a factual assertion, and could not support an inference of any dangerous icy condition.  The court therefore affirmed summary judgment in favor of the City.

If you were involved in a car accident, you may be entitled to damages for your injuries.  The Maryland personal injury attorneys at Foran & Foran, P.A. can provide legal advice to victims of medical malpractice, premises liability accidents, and other injuries caused by negligent individuals or businesses.  Schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with an experienced attorney by calling Foran & Foran at (301) 441-2022 or contacting us online.

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