Articles Posted in Slip and Fall

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.”

When filing a legal claim against an independent contractor after a Maryland accident, an independent contractor may claim that they cannot be held independently liable. Maryland courts have recognized that there are times in which independent contractors are also agents of another, often reliving them of independent liability. However, that is not always the case, and the party that claims there is a principal-agent relationship must prove the existence of such a relationship.

In a recent state appellate case, the court considered whether a personal trainer was an agent of a gym. In that case, the plaintiff was using a weight machine when she fractured a bone in her hand, requiring her to undergo two surgeries. She was under the direction of a personal trainer at the time she injured her hand, and she claimed the personal trainer improperly instructed her on how to use the machine, thereby causing her injury. The plaintiff brought a claim against the gym and the trainer, who had been contracted by the gym. The trainer argued that she was an agent of the gym, and could not be held independently liable because the gym had hired her to teach there. In contrast, the plaintiff argued the personal trainer was not an agent of the gym because she was an independent contractor there.

The court explained that there are circumstances in which a person may be an independent contractor and an agent of the principal. It explained that these circumstances exist where a contractor is a fiduciary that owes the principal loyalty and obedience. Examples of this include attorneys, brokers, and collection agencies. But in cases in which an independent contractor claims to be an agent, the independent contractor must establish the characteristics of the principal-agent relationship, including the principal’s right to control the physical conduct of the agent. In this case, there was not sufficient evidence that the trainer was an agent of the gym to dismiss the case against the trainer. Therefore, the court held that the case should continue against the trainer and that a jury would be required to resolve the issue.

Movies and television may have people believe that most civil lawsuits end in a dramatic trial. While this does sometimes happen, most Maryland personal injury lawsuits actually do not make it this far. Sometimes the parties settle with each other prior to trial, or sometimes a judge will find that there is no need to go to trial because one party cannot win. Many cases are decided at what is called “summary judgment.” Before trial, both parties can file a motion for summary judgment, which is basically asking a judge to rule in their favor. Summary judgment is proper if there is no genuine issue of material fact, such that there is nothing for a jury to decide and a trial is inappropriate.

For an illustration of how summary judgment can work, take a recent state appellate case. According to the court’s written opinion, the accident occurred while the plaintiff was cleaning out her daughter’s car in a cleaning area of their apartment complex. As the plaintiff stepped from the paved parking lot up to a landscaped area that had a car vacuum, she slipped and fell backward, resulting in substantial injuries. The plaintiff filed a negligence action against the apartment complex, alleging that she had slipped on a foreign substance. During her deposition for the case, she testified that she did not know what caused her to fall, and that there was no water on the ground, but that the rocks were smooth and slippery.

According to the plaintiff, the defendant apartment complex was negligent in maintaining the complex’s premises. However, the defendants filed for summary judgment, arguing that the suit had to be dropped because there was insufficient evidence of any hazardous condition. While the lower court denied the motion, on appeal the court found that the defendants were correct. The court reasoned that summary judgment was proper in the case because the plaintiff had not offered evidence that the area she slipped on was actually wet or otherwise hazardous, and in fact testified that there was no liquid in the area and that she did not know what made her slip.

When someone is injured in a Maryland accident, state law allows them to file a civil lawsuit against the responsible party. In order to be successful in a negligence claim of this type, the plaintiff must prove four things. First, the defendant owed a duty of care toward the plaintiff to act in a way to protect them from harm. Second, the defendant breached this standard. Third, the breach was the proximate cause of the injury. Finally, the plaintiff was injured and suffered actual harm as a result. In a straightforward negligence case, proving these four things will be enough for victory. However, many negligence cases get complicated, and there are some common barriers that bar plaintiffs from recovery. One of these barriers is the assumption of risk doctrine.

The term “assumption of risk” refers to when the plaintiff unnecessarily exposed themselves to the harm that was done to them. For example, a recent state appellate case considered the issue. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was helping the defendant dismantle an old building and noticed that there were skylights on the roof. The plaintiff volunteered to go up on the roof and remove the screws. Since the roof was so dirty and weathered, he was unable to see the skylights. While working on the roof, the plaintiff fell through a skylight and onto the concrete below, suffering multiple severe injuries. The plaintiff then sued the defendant, the owner of the building, for negligence.

Under Maryland laws, situations like this become more complicated than a straightforward negligence case because the defendant can argue that the plaintiff assumed the risk of his injuries by going up on the roof, knowing that there were skylights and that he could not see them. In these cases, the defendant can raise this defense by proving three things. The plaintiff had knowledge of the risk, the plaintiff understood that the risk could lead to serious harm, and the plaintiff voluntarily assumed the risk anyway. In the case described above, for example, the defendant must prove that the plaintiff was aware of the skylights on the roof and understood that they were fragile and that falling through them would cause harm, yet he volunteered to go up on the roof anyway. If the defendant can do that, Maryland law would allow him to escape liability for the plaintiff’s injuries.

Each year, thousands of people are injured in Maryland slip and fall accidents. Not surprisingly, a large percentage of these accidents occur in the winter months, when the presence of ice and snow makes navigating parking lots, sidewalks, and driveways a potentially dangerous experience.

When it comes to determining who is responsible for clearing snow or ice, Maryland law does not provide clear answers. Under general premises liability law, landowners owe a duty of care to those whom they allow onto their property. This duty requires a property owner to take reasonable care in maintaining their property and that they warn guests of known dangers. Maryland does not have a law directly discussing a property owner’s duty to clear snow and ice. Thus, the extent of a landowner’s duty, if any, will be determined by considering the following:

  • Did the landowner know about the snowy or icy conditions?

Filing a Maryland injury lawsuit can be more complicated when the state government is the defendant in the case. One potential complication is that a plaintiff must first provide notice when filing a claim against the state of Maryland in a personal injury claim.

Under section 12-106 of the Maryland Tort Claims Act (the Act), a claimant cannot bring a claim under the Act unless the claimant submits a written claim to the Treasurer within one year after the injury. The Treasurer then must deny the claim before the claim can be filed in court. The claim also must be filed within three years after the cause of action arises. There are some exceptions to the rule, for example, if the state has actual or constructive notice of the injury or of the defect within the year following the injury. The notice must comply with the requirements detailed in section 12-107 of the Act, which include a statement of facts and specific damages.

A recent case demonstrates how strictly notice requirements can be construed. In that case, an appeals court considered whether an estimate of damages in a notice to a city complied with the notice requirement. The plaintiff sent her notice to the city, notifying the city that she broke her leg after she stepped in a hole on a city crosswalk. She claimed that the city was negligent because residents had notified the city about the hole, and the city failed to repair it. In the notice, the plaintiff stated that “to the extent that [she] was require[d] to provide a dollar value,” she believed the value of the claim “may exceed $300,000.00.” She also stated that if the letter did not provide sufficient notice under the state, the city should advise her immediately in writing, and that she would correct any deficiencies. The woman subsequently filed suit in court. The city then responded to the notice, stating that the city denied liability. In response to the lawsuit, the city argued that the plaintiff had not complied with the notice requirement.

Maryland slip and fall accidents occur under a range of circumstances and can result in serious injuries or even fatalities. According to recent statistics compiled by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one million people suffer injuries after a slip and fall accident every year. Additionally, over 15 thousand people die every year related to injuries they sustained during a slip and fall. In many cases, slippery surfaces or broken steps cause slip and falls. When an individual suffers injuries in a Maryland slip and fall accident, they must understand their rights and remedies.

Maryland premises liability law establishes when a property or landowner is responsible for damages that a person suffers when they are injured on the property owner’s land. Generally, all Maryland property owners owe their visitors a duty to keep them reasonably safe from harm. Specific responsibilities vary depending on the type of property owner and visitor. Maryland distinguishes visitors into four categories, trespassers, bare licensees, invitees, and licensees.

In Maryland, trespassers are those that enter a property without permission. Generally, landowners do not owe trespassers any duty except to avoid willful or wanton misconduct. Similarly, bare licensees are those that enter a property for their own gain. Bare licensees are people such as door to door salespeople. Property owners owe bare licensees the duty to warn of any known dangers.

Parking lots are riddled with potential hazards, from potholes, to shopping carts, to inattentive drivers. It is not surprising, then, that there are thousands of people who are injured in Maryland parking lots each year. A significant number of these injuries are the result of slip-and-fall accidents. Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit arising out of a parking lot trip-and-fall.

As the court described the facts leading up to the filing of the case, the plaintiff was injured while she was returning a cart after shopping at the defendant grocery store. The plaintiff finished shopping and entered the shopping cart corral without issue, however, as the plaintiff was leaving the corral, she tripped on a raised crossbar connecting the ends of the corral. Evidently, the corral was hit by a delivery truck several months prior to the plaintiff’s accident, which bent the frame of the corral. As a result, the crossbar of the corral lifted off the ground by a little over an inch. It was this raised crossbar that caused the plaintiff to trip and fall.

The plaintiff initiated a premises liability lawsuit against the defendant. In response, the defendant argued that the plaintiff should not be permitted to recover for her injuries because the hazard that caused her injury, the raised crossbar, was open and obvious. The defendant explained that it had called to have the crossbar fixed, but hadn’t scheduled a day to have the repair completed. The defendant also noted that the plaintiff was able to safely enter the corral, suggesting she knew that the crossbar posed a potential hazard. The lower court agreed, and dismissed the plaintiff’s case. The plaintiff appealed.

When an accident victim wants to initiate a Maryland personal injury case, they must file a complaint. A complaint is a legal document that commences a lawsuit. In Maryland, a complaint must contain the legal justification for the plaintiff’s claim, including the essential facts and legal justification for what the plaintiff requests. Additionally, Maryland law requires that a plaintiff identify each party by name, rather than file the claim against a “John Doe” defendant.

One of the most important aspects of the complaint is the legal justification for the plaintiff’s claim, including the statement of facts that support the plaintiff’s justification. While the federal system allows for the more relaxed form of notice-pleading, Maryland is a fact-pleading jurisdiction. In Maryland, a plaintiff must present a “simple, concise, and direct” explanation of their claim.

If a plaintiff fails to properly plead their complaint, the defendant can move to dismiss the case. A recent case illustrates the importance of correctly pleading a case.

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.

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