A Look at Maryland Premises Liability: Business Owners’ Duty to Customers

All Maryland landowners owe a duty to those whom they invite onto their property. The extent of the duty owed to guests depends on the relationship between the parties. Maryland business owners owe the highest duty to their customers and other visitors who are on their property to conduct business. If a company fails to provide for the safety of its customers, it may be held liable for any injuries through a Maryland premises liability lawsuit. A recent state appellate decision discusses the duty business owners owe to their customers.

The case arose when the plaintiff was injured while shopping for a gift at a large exposition center. Evidently, the center required shoppers obtain a security badge and go through a security gate before entering. The plaintiff and her husband were issued a security badge and were approaching the security gate when the plaintiff tripped and fell on a rubber mat that was underneath the security desk. The plaintiff later testified that she did not see the mat before her fall.

A security guard that worked for a company that was hired to provide security services for the expo center was sitting at the desk when the plaintiff fell. The guard testified that she saw the plaintiff approach with a limp, but did not see her fall. Photographs taken shortly after the plaintiff’s fall showed that the rubber mat was slightly curled up at the edges.

The plaintiff initiated a personal injury lawsuit against the expo center, the security company, and the security guard. The latter two defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that they neither owned the property where the plaintiff was injured nor were they in control of the property. The trial court agreed, and dismissed the security company and security guard from the case. The plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the plaintiff renewed her argument that the defendants were negligent in failing to provide for her safety. In support of her claim, the plaintiff argued that the contract between the expo center and the security company in which the security company agreed to provide security gave rise to an affirmative duty on the part of the security company, even if a duty was not otherwise present.

The court, however, rejected the plaintiff’s argument, and affirmed the dismissal of her case against both defendants. The court began by noting that, in general, a landowner has a non-delegable duty to ensure the safety of guests, and that a landowner cannot avoid liability by hiring an independent contractor. Here, the court noted that there was no evidence suggesting either of the defendants owned or operated the immediate area where the plaintiff fell. Additionally, the court explained that the contract between the expo center and the security company did not give rise to a duty on behalf of the security company because the plaintiff could not establish that she was a third-party beneficiary of the agreement.

Are You in Need of a Dedicated Maryland Injury Attorney?

If you or someone you care about has been injured in a Maryland slip-and-fall accident, contact the dedicated injury lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC. At Lebowitz & Mzhen, we handle Maryland premises liability cases, as well as other personal injury claims, including car accidents, wrongful death claims, and medical malpractice cases. To discuss how we can help you with your situation, call 410-654-3600 to set up a free case evaluation today.

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