Maryland Student Files Negligence Suit Against University for Knife Fight on Campus 

In Maryland, property owners have a duty to protect invitees from an unreasonable risk of harm on their land.  In some situations, this duty may extend to risks arising from intentional or criminal acts of third parties.  In a July 16, 2020 Maryland personal injury case, the Court of Special Appeals considered whether a university had breached its duty to protect a student who was injured in a fight on campus.

The plaintiff in the case was a freshman and student athlete at the university.  The plaintiff witnessed a fight between one of his teammates and a few other students outside his dormitory and intervened in an attempt to break it up.  In the melee, the plaintiff was attacked with a knife.  He suffered several stab wounds, a fractured rib, and a punctured lung that required surgery.

The plaintiff brought a negligence suit against the university, claiming that the university failed to provide adequate security on campus, which resulted in his injuries.  The university filed a motion to dismiss, which was granted by the circuit court.  The plaintiff sought review of that decision from the appellate court.

To establish a Maryland negligence claim, the plaintiff must establish: (1) the defendant had a duty to protect the plaintiff from injury, (2) the defendant breached that duty, (3) the defendant’s breach of duty proximately caused the injury suffered by the plaintiff, and (4) that the plaintiff suffered an actual injury.  The duty of a possessor of land to someone injured on their property depends on the person’s status.  The plaintiff in the case was an invitee, and as such, the university had a duty to use reasonable and ordinary care to keep the premises safe, and to protect the plaintiff from injury caused by an unreasonable risk which he would not discover, even when exercising ordinary care for his own safety.

With respect to risks arising from intentional or criminal acts of third parties, the university, as the possessor of land, has a duty to protect an invitee only when the university knows, or should know, that the acts of a third party who causes harm are occurring, or are about to occur.  The duty may be based on knowledge of events, or on past experience that indicates a likelihood of conduct by third persons in general, or conduct by a particular individual who is likely to harm an invitee.

On appeal, the court found there was no evidence that the university failed to implement reasonable measures to prevent the recurrence of fights, or evidence that any measures could have prevented the fight.  The appeals court also found that because the university did not have any notice or knowledge of the attack, it did not fail to take action.  Accordingly, the court held that the negligence claim against the university was properly dismissed.

At Foran & Foran, our accident lawyers can address any legal issues you may have after suffering an injury caused by negligence.  We provide advice and representation to people with injuries arising out of automobile and motorcycle collisions, premises liability accidents, medical malpractice, and more.  If you need trustworthy legal assistance, contact Foran & Foran online or call (301) 441-2022 and schedule a free consultation.

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