Articles Posted in Premises Liability

In a recent wrongful death case before a state appellate court, the court allowed a case to proceed against a property owner for the alleged defective condition of a building built in 1990. The plaintiffs filed a Maryland wrongful death case against the owner and property manager of a shopping center. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants failed to warn a HVAC repairman that there was no roof access from a wall when he fell from the wall back in 2012. The worker was severely injured as a result of the fall, and died 12 days later from his injuries. The defendants argued the claims were barred by the statute of repose, because there was a 20-year limit on claims, as the building was completed in 1990.

Dilapidated HouseHere, the statute stated that a claim cannot be filed for an injury “resulting from the defective and unsafe condition of an improvement to real property” if the injury occurs more than 20 years after “the date the entire improvement first becomes available for its intended use.” However, Maryland Code of Courts and Judicial Proceedings 5-108 states that the section did not apply “[i]f the defendant was in actual possession and control of the property as owner, tenant, or otherwise when the injury occurred” in certain causes of action, in certain causes of action involving asbestos, or in a cause of action for injury to real property resulting from a defective and unsafe condition of an improvement to real property under certain conditions.

The plaintiffs contended the claim fell under an exception, and the defendant argued that the exceptions only applied in asbestos cases. The court found the possession-and-control exception applied in non-asbestos cases, as the first time the exception was created, the court did not reference asbestos. Therefore, the court applied the exception to cases against anyone in possession or control of real property, and the plaintiffs’ claims were not barred by the statute of repose.

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Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit brought by a man who was injured while loading purchased rolls of insulation into his truck. The case required the court to determine whether the large, unstable stack of insulation that fell on top of the plaintiff was an “open and obvious” hazard. Ultimately, the court concluded that the hazard was open and obvious, and thus it determined that the business did not owe a duty to the plaintiff.

WarehouseThe case is important for Maryland accident victims to understand because it illustrates one of the avenues a defendant in a Maryland premises liability lawsuit may take in an attempt to evade legal responsibility.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff and his son purchased several large rolls of insulation from the defendant hardware store. Due to their size, the rolls were kept in a separate storage warehouse. The cashier told the plaintiff to drive to the warehouse, where he could find the rolls and load them into his car.

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Maryland has a diverse and unique landscape, providing ample opportunity for Marylanders to get outside and engage in the hobbies they enjoy. Whether it’s crabbing on the Chesapeake, fossil hunting in Calvert Cliffs, mountain biking, rock climbing, or kayaking, there is always something to do in Maryland.

Mountain BikingEach of these activities, however, presents some level of risk that something goes wrong. And while the individual engaging in the activity certainly bears some responsibility to make sure that they are being safe, landowners that allow for people to use their land may also have a duty in certain situations, as Maryland premises liability law provides. Maryland’s recreational use statute governs when a landowner has a duty – and thus can be held liable for a violation of that duty – to those whom the landowner allows to use their land.

Maryland Code section 5-1104 explains that, in general, “an owner of land who either directly or indirectly invites or permits without charge persons to use the property for any recreational or educational purpose or to cut firewood for personal use does not . . . extend any assurance that the premises are safe.” Nor does the landowner “assume responsibility for or incur liability as a result of any injury to the person.”

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Earlier this month, a federal appellate court affirmed the dismissal of a personal injury case filed by a skier against the ski resort where she was injured while getting off the chairlift. The case is important for Maryland accident victims because it discusses the validity of an accident release waiver signed by the plaintiff, as well as the contractual language contained on the back of the lift ticket.

Snowy Ski LiftUltimately, the court concluded that both the accident release waiver as well as the contractual language on the back of the lift ticket were enforceable, and it precluded the plaintiff from pursuing her claim against the ski resort.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff arranged to take a ski lesson at the defendant ski resort. Prior to getting the lesson, the plaintiff signed an accident release waiver. The waiver stated that the skier understood and voluntarily accepted the inherent risks of skiing, and she agreed not to hold the resort liable for any injuries she sustained, even those injuries caused by the negligence of the resort or its employees.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Nebraska issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving a tenant who was injured while ascending the concrete steps to the residence she leased from the defendant landlord. The case presents a relevant and important issue for Maryland personal injury plaintiffs in that it shows the types of cases that can be brought when a tenant is injured due to a defect in the leased property, as well as the standards used by courts to evaluate a tenant’s claim for damages.

StepsThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff leased a home from the defendant. Prior to the plaintiff taking possession of the residence, the landlord was cited for several code violations, including a sunken concrete step leading into the front door of the home.

The plaintiff moved in, and about 18 months later, she tripped and fell as she was climbing the concrete steps into the home. Specifically, the heel of the plaintiff’s shoe got stuck in a small crack between the top step and the front patio. This caused the plaintiff to fall, resulting in an injury to her ankle.

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When someone is injured on the property of a person, business, or government entity, the injured party may be able to seek compensation for their injuries through a Maryland premises liability lawsuit. In order to be successful in a premises liability lawsuit, a plaintiff must be able to establish certain elements. Specifically, an accident victim must be able to show that the property owner knew or should have known about the hazard that caused the plaintiff’s injury.

Fallen TreeA recent appellate court case filed by a plaintiff who was injured by a fallen tree branch illustrates which elements a plaintiff must prove in order to be successful in a premises liability claim.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff rented an apartment in a complex that was owned by the defendants. During a storm, a tree was seriously damaged, and a portion of the tree ended up being suspended between the tree’s trunk and the gutter of the apartment complex.

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Earlier this month, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit dealing with the naming of government defendants in a personal injury case. The case is instructive for Maryland premises liability plaintiffs because similar requirements are in place here in Maryland that may prevent a plaintiff’s full recovery if she fails to name certain parties in her complaint.

BoardwalkThe Facts of the Case

After a young girl died in an amusement park accident on a New Jersey boardwalk, her parents filed a premises liability lawsuit against several defendants, all of which were related to the amusement park operation. At the time of the accident, the plaintiffs’ daughter was on a school trip. The plaintiffs did not name their daughter’s school in the lawsuit.

In a pre-trial motion, the defendants collectively moved to add the daughter’s school, arguing that there was evidence suggesting the school officials were also negligent and partially responsible for the girl’s death. However, the defendants failed to provide timely notice of the pending lawsuit to the school.

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Swimming pools are a great way to bring friends and family together on those hot summer days. However, those who have swimming pools on their property assume a good deal of responsibility to avoid accidental drownings. Indeed, Maryland swimming pool deaths account for nearly 400 fatalities each year and represent about 20% of all drowning deaths in the state.

Swimming Pool WaterThose who have swimming pools on their property must take adequate precautions to ensure that those who use the pool are safe. Largely, local regulations govern which precautions are necessary. A recent personal injury case illustrates the difficulties one wrongful death plaintiff had when attempting to establish liability on the part of a condo association that operated the pool where his son drowned.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff’s son was swimming at a swimming pool located in a condominium complex where his aunt lived. At the time, the boy’s aunt was not present, but he was with other family members. The group used the aunt’s key card to gain access to the pool and did not seek approval from the condo association to use the pool.

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In Maryland, whenever someone is injured on the property of a person, business, or government entity, the victim may be entitled to monetary compensation for their injuries through a Maryland premises liability lawsuit. Proving a premises liability lawsuit in Maryland requires a plaintiff to establish certain elements, which can vary depending on the relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant. For example, a “business invitee” is owed a higher duty of care than someone who enters another party’s land without permission.

Swimming PoolGenerally speaking, a Maryland premises liability plaintiff must prove that the landowner knew or should have known about the hazard but failed to take corrective action to remedy the harm. The plaintiff will also need to establish that they were unaware of the hazard that caused their injury. Importantly, a plaintiff must also specify the alleged act of negligence they claim caused their injury. A recent case illustrates how one plaintiff’s failure to include an additional theory of liability prevented him from arguing that theory on appeal.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was working with the defendant realtor to find an investment property. The defendant had a listing in mind that he thought would be a good fit for the plaintiff. The property had a pool in the back yard, which the defendant had arranged to be professionally serviced and then emptied prior to listing the property for sale.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in California issued a written opinion in a premises liability case in which the plaintiff was injured by a falling tree branch while visiting a public marine park. The court was tasked with determining whether the plaintiff’s claim was barred by the trail immunity, which confers immunity to state and local governments when someone is injured while using a public trail. Ultimately, the court concluded that since the plaintiff’s injury was caused by the falling tree branch, rather than the trail itself, immunity did not attach, and the plaintiff was permitted to continue forward with her lawsuit.

Live Oak TreeThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff and a friend were visiting Mission Bay Park, which is the largest marine park in the United States. The two were walking on or near a path when a branch from a eucalyptus tree fell, injuring the plaintiff. She filed a premises liability lawsuit against the government entity in charge of maintaining the park, claiming that the tree was negligently maintained.

The government claimed it was immune from liability under trail immunity. However, the court explained that the injury was not caused by a defect or dangerous condition of the trail itself, but instead by the negligently maintained tree. Thus, trail immunity did not apply.

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