In a Maryland premises liability case based on a dangerous condition, a plaintiff must establish certain elements. Specifically, a plaintiff must prove 1.) that a dangerous condition existed on the defendant’s premises; 2.) the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition; 3.) the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff; 4.) the defendant knew about the dangerous condition for long enough remove the condition or to warn the plaintiff; 5.) the plaintiff suffered an injury; and 6.) the defendant’s conduct caused the plaintiff’s injury. A recent case before a state appeals court is an example of a situation in which the plaintiff failed to sufficiently show the existence of a dangerous condition.
In that case, the plaintiff went to a Dollar General store one morning. After completing her purchase, and on her way back to her car, she became distracted by a display rack on the sidewalk and by other customers walking in and out of the store, and stepped off of the sidewalk onto the parking lot, hitting a concrete parking abutment. She tripped over the parking abutment, fell forward, and suffered injuries to her knee, head, and elbow, which required her to undergo surgery and physical therapy. The plaintiff claimed that the store owner breached its duty to keep the premises safe. She claimed that the parking abutment was a hazardous condition because it was unpainted and slanted and because the display rack was a distraction.
The court dismissed the plaintiff’s case, reasoning that even if the parking abutment was a hazardous condition, the plaintiff was aware of the hazard and failed to exercise ordinary care to protect herself. First, the plaintiff testified in her deposition that she had been to the store 20 or 25 times before and knew that there were parking abutments in the parking lot. She knew that they looked like and was aware of them. Second, she testified that she had crossed the same area about ten minutes before the fall when she had entered the store. She failed to exercise ordinary care in failing to pay attention to the display rack instead of looking where she was walking. Third, the display rack did not block her view of the area where the parking abutment was situated. She had also seen the display rack and had walked around it on her way into the store. Therefore, the parking abutment was open and obvious, and “any hazard presented by it could have been avoided by [the plaintiff] in the exercise of reasonable care.”