Maryland Victim Pursues Negligence Claim in U.S. District Court After Escalator Accident

In some lawsuits, plaintiffs can seek to hold careless business owners responsible for their negligence. In a recent case, Reyen v. Jones Lang Lasalle Americas, Inc. (D. Md. Sept. 7, 2016), an injured plaintiff filed a negligence claim against the owner of a bus company and the property manager of the bus station after she fell on an escalator. The matter was brought in the U.S. District Court of Maryland, which decided a motion for summary judgment filed by the defendants.

In Reyen, the plaintiff purchased a bus ticket from the defendant to travel from New York to Virginia on an itinerary with several bus changes. Due to a disability that required her to walk with a cane, the plaintiff notified the bus company in advance that she would need help with moving her luggage and getting on and off the buses. The bus company indicated that she would have assistance walking from one bus to the next. During one of the scheduled stops, the plaintiff looked for an elevator she could use but was unable to find one at the station, although they were in fact available. The plaintiff felt that she had no other choice but to ride an escalator, and as she took a step onto it, she fell backwards and sustained injuries.

A plaintiff alleging negligence must prove the applicable standard of care, a deviation from that standard by the defendant, and a causal relationship between the deviation and the injury. Generally, common carriers owe different standards of care to passengers and non-passengers. For passengers, common carriers must exercise reasonable care under the circumstances, including protecting passengers against assault, interference with the peaceful completion of their journey, and in certain situations, negligent acts of third parties. However, a common carrier owes no special duty of care to non-passengers, other than the general duty to exercise ordinary care to avoid injury.

In Reyen, it was undisputed that the bus company was a common carrier. The court, however, concluded that the plaintiff was a non-passenger at the time of the injury, since she was inside the station, not in or near the bus. Since the bus company had no control over the station and no special duty to protect her, the court held that the plaintiff failed to establish an applicable duty of care. In addition, the voluntary undertaking of the bus company to assist the plaintiff was limited to helping her on and off the bus and removing her luggage, and it was not a basis for liability. As a result, the court granted summary judgment in favor of the bus company defendant.

The court went on to grant summary judgment in favor of the bus station defendant as well, since the plaintiff was unable to provide expert testimony as to the standard of care. Expert testimony is required when the subject in question is so distinctly related to some science, profession, or occupation as to be beyond the ken of the average layperson. The court explained that expert testimony is often necessary in cases involving safety issues, as in Reyen. Accordingly, the claim was dismissed.

If you have been injured on the property of another person or business, initiating legal action against the negligent party may help in recovering compensation for your hospital bills and lost wages. At the Maryland firm of Foran & Foran, P.A., our team of personal injury lawyers represents victims of slip-and-fall accidents, medical malpractice, motor vehicle collisions, and other accidents who wish to pursue negligence claims in court. To discuss your legal options with one of our attorneys, schedule an appointment by calling Foran & Foran, P.A. at (301) 441-2022 or contact us online.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Plaintiff Wins on Appeal in Slip and Fall Case Against Convenience Store, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published August 12, 2016

Maryland Plaintiff Defeats Summary Judgment Motion in Premises Liability Case Against Department Store, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published October 13, 2016

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