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Skiing is the favorite seasonal pastime of many Maryland recreationalists. However, skiing can be a dangerous sport, especially when the ski resort does not take the necessary safety precautions. While the winter ski season has passed, now is a good time for those who were injured in a Maryland skiing accident to consider whether they may have a claim for compensation against the resort where their injuries occurred.

In general, ski resorts – like other landowners – have a duty to ensure that areas accessible by guests are safe and well maintained. This includes not just the resort’s skiable areas, but also restaurants, restrooms, locker rooms, and parking lots. When management is negligent in the operation of the resort, they may be held liable for any injuries that occur as a result of that negligence.

One issue that frequently comes up in ski accident cases is whether the injured skier gave up their right to pursue a claim against the ski resort by signing, or otherwise acknowledging, the resort’s release of liability. A recent case illustrates how courts review cases in which a defendant ski resort relies on a printed release of liability.

Frequently, this blog discusses cases in which a defendant landowner faces liability for injuries that occur on their property. These cases, referred to as Maryland premises liability cases, are brought under the general theory of negligence. Thus, to succeed in a Maryland premises liability case, an accident victim must show that the defendant was somehow negligent and that the defendant’s negligence was the cause of their injuries.

While the general rule states that a landowner is liable for a guest’s injuries that were the result of the landowner’s negligence, the Maryland recreational use statute provides landowners immunity in certain limited situations. Under Maryland Code section 5-1104, a landowner who permits others to use their property for “any recreational or educational” purpose without charging a fee is not liable for guest’s injuries. This applies to both public and private landowners. The law’s stated purpose is to “encourage any owner of land to make [their property] available to the public for any recreational and educational purpose by limiting the owner’s liability.”

The recreational use statute does not afford protection to landowners who willfully or maliciously failed to guard or warn against a dangerous condition. A recent state appellate opinion illustrates how courts interpret recreational use statutes, as well as the “willful or malicious” exception.

It has often been said that the best offense is a good defense. Thus, it is essential for those who have been injured in a Maryland slip-and-fall accident to understand the common ways that a defendant will try to defeat a plaintiff’s claim. There are two basic arguments that Maryland premises liability defendants use to evade accountability.

At its most basic, a Maryland premises liability claim requires the plaintiff to establish that the defendant landowner was negligent in the maintenance of their property. It may be that a landowner failed to warn visitors of a known hazard or that the landowner failed to remedy a hazard that, given the circumstances, the landowner should have known about. In either case, to prove a landowner’s negligence, the plaintiff must show that the defendant landowner knew or should have known about the hazard.

One common tactic is for a defendant landowner to argue that he did not have knowledge of the hazard. Importantly, Maryland premises liability law does not require a plaintiff to prove that a landowner had actual knowledge of a hazard. Indeed, most Maryland slip-and-fall cases proceed on the theory that the landowner had constructive knowledge of the hazard.

A Maryland landlord cannot ensure the safety of its residents, but it does have a duty to take reasonable security measures. In a recent case before a state appellate court, the court considered the extent of a condominium’s responsibility to protect its residents.

The Facts

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was a new resident at a condo in downtown Atlanta. The declarations for the condominium stated that it was not responsible for providing security to residents. However, the plaintiff claimed the association provided what he considered to be security measures, such as security gates, and that these features contributed to him deciding to purchase the property.

Evidently, a security gate outside the property required a key fob for access, which he was told would be provided by the defendant property management company. More than two weeks after closing on the property, he was given a fob, but he could not get the fob to open the vehicle-access gate. The plaintiff contacted the company on multiple occasions. As he was attempting to resolve the issue with the key fob, about a month after he moved in, he was the victim of a violent attack on the sidewalk outside of his condominium complex. He had arrived home around 2:00 a.m. with his girlfriend, and after not being able to enter through the gate, and decided to park on the street. He got out of his car, and was stabbed three times in an attempted robbery.

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There are many different types of Maryland product liability cases. Some product liability cases involve manufacturing mistakes while others are based on the defective design of a product or that it is unreasonably dangerous. Recently, the manufacturer of Round-Up weed killer has been in the hot seat after thousands of frequent users of the product have developed a specific type of cancer. While the manufacturer of the product claims that the product is safe, others argue that high levels of exposure can result in users developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Currently, a jury is considering phase one of a bellwether trial in San Francisco. A bellwether trial is the first case to proceed to trial that presents an issue that is also presented by many other pending lawsuits that have been filed by plaintiffs who are making similar claims. Thus, the result of a bellwether trial can be incredibly important to how the other subsequent lawsuits proceed. For example, if a judge decides a specific pre-trial motion in favor of the plaintiff, the defendant may be more willing to settle the subsequent cases.

According to a recent news report, the case involves a man who developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after using Round-Up over 300 times in his 26-year career. The man claims that his use of Round-Up throughout his career was a “substantial factor” in causing his cancer. In addition, the plaintiff claims that the manufacturer of the product attempted to influence the public’s perception of the product’s safety by influencing scientists and regulators.

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Local governments, like other property owners, have an obligation to keep public spaces safe for visitors. While the procedures involved in filing a case against a government are slightly different from those required in a Maryland premises liability lawsuit against a private individual or corporation, in each of these situations a plaintiff must be able to prove that the landowner’s negligence in maintaining their property resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries.

To prove that a landowner was negligent, a plaintiff must first show that the landowner knew of the hazard that caused their injuries. Once the defendant’s knowledge is established, the plaintiff must show that the landowner was somehow negligent in failing to remedy the hazard or warn of the hazard’s existence. Finally, a plaintiff must prove that their injuries were the result of the landowner’s negligence. This is referred to as “causation.” In a recent case involving a slip-and-fall injury that occurred at a cemetery, the court discussed the plaintiff’s burden to prove causation.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was visiting the gravesites of several family members in a cemetery that was owned by the defendant city when he stepped in a hole that was covered by grass. Evidently, the hole was deep enough such that the plaintiff fell down to his knee, folded over at the waist, and struck his head against the ground.

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Although the concept of sovereign immunity is not mentioned anywhere in the U.S. Constitution or the Bill of Rights, courts have long held that the U.S. government is immune from liability without its consent. Under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), however, those who have been injured as a result of the conduct of a federal employee or agency may be able to pursue a claim for compensation.

The FTCA provides a strict set of procedural rules that must be followed in order for a case to be heard by a federal court. If an injury victim misses a deadline or otherwise fails to comply with one of the FTCA’s requirements, their claim will likely be dismissed. Thus, it is crucial for Maryland injury victims bringing claims under the FTCA to understand all of the requirements the FTCA imposes. A recent federal appellate opinion discusses the statute of limitations in FTCA claims.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s written opinion, in 2005, when the plaintiff was just five years old, when his father died in an auto accident. The accident occurred on an interstate highway. Because the plaintiff was only five years old at the time, the plaintiff’s mother filed a claim against the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The claim alleged that a highway barrier failed during the accident, resulting in the plaintiff’s father’s death.

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Maryland landowners owe a duty of care to those who are on their property. The extent of the duty that a landowner owes to a visitor depends on several factors: primarily, whether the visitor was welcomed onto the land by the landowner and the purpose of the visit.

In Maryland, there are three classes of visitors: trespassers, licensees, and invitees. A trespasser accesses another’s property without permission. A licensee is most commonly a social guest. And finally, an invitee is someone who is on a property for business purposes, such as a customer. Not surprisingly, a landowner owes a trespasser less of a duty than she owes a licensee or an invitee. In fact, in Maryland, a landowner owes a trespasser no affirmative duty of care, and must only refrain from willfully causing them injury.

When it comes to trespassing children, however, many courts across the United States apply the attractive nuisance doctrine. The attractive nuisance doctrine allows for a landowner to be held liable for injuries that are caused to a child by some aspect of the landowner’s property that attracted the child onto the land. Typically, the landowner must know the danger as well as the fact that children may have access to their property. In addition, courts require that the child’s age be such that it prevented them from fully understanding the risk of entering the property.

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As we have discussed in other posts, the legal doctrine of contributory negligence precludes personal injury victims who are found to be partially at fault for their injuries from pursuing a claim of financial compensation. While Maryland’s contributory negligence law, in most people’s eyes, is outdated and overly harsh, for now, it governs how courts determine liability in Maryland personal injury accidents.

Contributory negligence is often discussed in the context of auto accidents. However, the doctrine also applies in Maryland slip-and-fall cases. A recent state appellate decision illustrates why contributory negligence is so harmful to Maryland premises liability plaintiffs.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff owned property in the defendant condo complex. One day, the plaintiff was walking along a sidewalk in the complex when she tripped on a section of uneven cement. The plaintiff frequented the area where she fell. Evidently, the cement area had been marked by complex management with blue dots, indicating it to be an area that needed to be repaired.

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A common concern in many Maryland personal injury cases is the spoliation of evidence. Spoliation refers to the “destruction, mutilation, or alteration” of evidence by a party who is involved in the case. Typically, spoliation occurs when a party is in possession of evidence that the party believes is unfavorable to their case (and thus, favorable to the opposing party).

When it comes to the destruction of evidence, Maryland courts operate by the maxim “Omnia praesumuntur contra spoliatem” which translates to “all things are presumed against the spoliator.” Thus, courts can impose a variety of sanctions against a party who is found to have spoliated evidence. To do so, the party seeking the imposition of a sanction must establish the four elements of a spoliation claim:

  • The other party destroyed, mutilated, or altered the evidence;
  • The fact that the evidence was discoverable;
  • The intent to destroy the evidence; and
  • The evidence was destroyed at a time after a case had been filed or when the destroying party knew that a case was imminent.

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