In some cases, determining which defendants may be held liable for injuries in a Maryland negligence claim is an issue for the courts. In a November 9, 2018 case, the plaintiff alleged that he contracted lead paint poisoning while living at a property between 1995 and 1996. The owner of the property had passed away in 1993, and the property was run by the personal representatives of his estate until 1997. The plaintiff, therefore, sued the personal representatives for his injuries. Eventually, the plaintiff abandoned his claims against all but one of the defendants. When the circuit court entered summary judgment in favor of the remaining personal representative, the plaintiff appealed.
The plaintiff had filed claims based on negligence and violations of the Maryland Consumer Protection Act (MCPA), alleging that the defendant, while serving as co-personal representative of the property, had owned, controlled, or managed the property. On appeal, the issue for the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland was whether the plaintiff could bring suit against the personal representative of the property owner’s estate for lead paint poisoning.
Under the local housing code, property owners and operators have a duty to provide a residence that is free from chipping, flaking, or peeling paint. In order to be held personally liable for a breach of this duty and any resulting harm, therefore, the defendant must fall under the definition of an owner or operator.
An owner is defined under the housing code as any person, firm, corporation, guardian, conservator, receiver, trustee, executor, or other judicial officer, who owns, holds, or controls the legal title to a dwelling. While a personal representative is not specifically identified as a type of owner under the code, the definition states that any person may be an owner. The plaintiff argued that because “person” is defined elsewhere in the code to include personal representatives, the defendant fell under the definition of owner.
The appeals court explained that the local housing code was preempted by Maryland state law, which provides that a personal representative in the defendant’s position is not individually liable unless he is personally at fault. The court therefore ruled that the defendant could not be held personally liable solely based on his role as a personal representative of the property’s owners estate. The court went on to find that the record did not show any evidence that the defendant was involved in the day-to-day operations of the rental properties or had sufficient charge, care or control over the property to subject him to individual liability. As such, summary judgment was upheld.
If you have questions regarding a Maryland premises liability case, the personal injury lawyers at Foran & Foran, P.A. can help. We represent plaintiffs in negligence actions to seek compensation from those responsible for their injuries. Request a free consultation by calling our office at (301) 441-2022 or contacting us online.
More Blog Posts:
Maryland Court Allows Plaintiff to Proceed in Lead Paint Lawsuit Against Property Owner, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published August 20, 2016
Maryland Court Upholds Million-Dollar Jury Verdict to Plaintiff in Lead Paint Case, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published May 19, 2018