Articles Posted in Slip and Fall

The owners of businesses and nonprofit organizations, including churches, are required to keep their premises in a reasonably safe condition for employees, customers, and other members of the public. In the event that a hazardous condition results in an injury to an employee, customer or guest, property owners can be held accountable with a personal injury lawsuit. A case recently filed by a woman who was injured on the premises of a church has been dismissed, however, as the organization that she sued was not the legal owner of the property where she was injured.

According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the plaintiff was employed by the defendant church as a security guard at the time of her injury. While at work, the plaintiff was instructed to escort a person off the property, when she tripped on a small piece of fencing surrounding a garden and suffered injuries. In addition to a workers compensation claim that she filed through her employer, the plaintiff also filed a premises liability claim against the church, alleging that they were negligent in failing to maintain their premises in a safe manner.

In response to the plaintiff’s lawsuit, the defendant put forth three defenses. First, the defendant argued that they were not the owners of the property where the plaintiff was injured, as another separate organization owns the property and the plaintiff simply uses it for church services every Sunday. Additionally, the defendant argued that the fence was an open and obvious hazard and that the plaintiff herself was negligent by failing to look out for and avoid the hazard. The trial court accepted all of the defendants’ arguments and dismissed the plaintiff’s case. Importantly, the court found that the plaintiff presented no evidence that the defendant actually owned the property where she was injured.

Patrons who choose to attend cultural or sporting events on private property are entitled to expect the owners of the property and organizers of the event to keep the premises reasonably safe from dangerous conditions. Although businesses and property owners may attempt to fully disclaim themselves from liability for injuries by using waivers, signage, and other methods, acts of negligence that harm a patron while attending an event still may be actionable in a court of law.

The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland recently entered a ruling in a case that was filed by a patron who was injured at a professional football game in 2015. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the plaintiff attended a Baltimore Ravens football game in 2015 and was struck by a football that was kicked by a Ravens player during pregame warmups. According to the plaintiff’s complaint, she lost consciousness after being hit, and is suffering from after-effects of the injury to this day.

The plaintiff sued the Baltimore Ravens, the National Football League, as well as the player who kicked the ball that caused her injuries. In her complaint, the plaintiff alleged that the defendants were negligent and reckless by placing her in the situation to be injured as she was. In response to the complaint, the defendants moved to dismiss the charges without a trial, arguing that the plaintiff knew of the risks of attending a game and assumed them by showing up. Furthermore, the defendants noted that the ticket for the game had a disclaimer printed on the back that absolved the defendants of responsibility for injuries that may occur to patrons.

Like much of the east coast, the winter months bring snow and ice to many parts of Maryland. Naturally, this weather can increase the risk of injuries from a slip and fall. While many weather-related accidents occur at businesses, especially in parking lots or sidewalks, individuals can suffer injuries anywhere snow and ice accumulate. Under Maryland law, property owners have a duty of care to those who enter their property. The standard of care varies depending on the type of visitor; however, generally, property owners must ensure that their property is reasonably safe from dangers.

During the winter, property owners have the duty to exercise reasonable care in areas that they should reasonably expect people to be. The duty includes inspecting the property for dangers like icy patches and other slick areas. Further, property owners should remediate dangerous conditions that may lead to a slip and fall. Those who fail to do this may be liable for negligence under the state’s premises liability laws.

Are Maryland businesses responsible for clearing sidewalks after a snow storm?

Many businesses and government properties contract with snow removal companies to ensure that their property is clear of dangers; However, in most cases, liability for a slip and fall injury still falls on the property owner. For example, a property owner may be liable for injuries if their snow removal company did a poor job or failed to remove the hazards. The inquiries in these cases tend to hinge on the totality of the circumstances and whether the property owner’s conduct was reasonable.

Many Maryland accident victims do not have direct evidence of a defendant’s negligence. That is, the plaintiff does not have direct proof of the cause of the accident. In these cases, accident victims must prove the case through circumstantial evidence of the defendant’s fault, relying on inferences of the defendant’s fault.

How Does a Maryland Accident Victim Prove a Personal Injury Claim?

In a Maryland negligence claim, a plaintiff must generally show that the defendant had a duty to protect the plaintiff from injury, the defendant breached that duty, the plaintiff suffered an injury or loss, and the loss or injury was proximately caused by the defendant’s breach of its duty. Proof of causation may rest on direct evidence, circumstantial evidence, or a combination of the two. A negligence claim can rest solely on circumstantial evidence. However, the circumstantial evidence must create “a reasonable likelihood or probability rather than a possibility” that supports a “rational basis of causation” and cannot be based solely on speculation.

In a recent case before a state appeals court, the court considered whether there was sufficient evidence of causation in a case that rested on circumstantial evidence. In that case, the plaintiff went to a medical center to visit a patient. As she was walking to the patient’s room, the plaintiff slipped and fell in front of a utility-room door and fractured her kneecap. She alleged that the floor was wet and sued the Medical Center for negligence. The case went to trial, and a jury found in the plaintiff’s favor and awarded her more than a million dollars. The defendant appeal, arguing in part that there was insufficient evidence of a wet floor or that the medical center knew of a wet substance on the floor.

Health care facilities, such as hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and outpatient treatment facilities owe a duty of care to their patients and visitors. The duty of care is a facet of the facility’s obligation to prevent hazards and unreasonable risk of harm to those on their property. Hospital injury cases tend to fall under Maryland medical malpractice or premises liability laws. In contrast, hospital visitor injury claims are a bit more convoluted but generally fall under premises liability theories of negligence.

Maryland premises liability claims may apply in cases when a person suffers injuries because of a dangerous condition at another’s public or private property. The law provides property owners and occupiers to keep their land or business reasonably safe for individuals they can reasonably expect will enter their property. Challenges often arise when the property owner asserts that they did not owe a duty to the injury victim, based on their visitor status.

What Are the Classifications of Visitors Under Maryland Premises Liability Law?

There are four types of visitor classifications for Maryland premises liability purposes. These classifications include invitees, licensee by invitation, bare licensee, and trespassers. Invitees are usually business guests or customers. Property owners have the duty to keep the property safe by engaging in inspections, protecting the visitor from foreseeable dangers, and warning them of any potentially dangerous conditions. Licensee by invitation is social guests, such as a guest at a party. In these cases, even though they are invited, a property owner must only warn the licensee of dangerous conditions the owner knows about, but they don’t need to inspect the property. Bare licensees are those who enter another’s property with consent and knowledge, but for the visitor’s purpose or interest. This may include solicitors or possibly hospital visitors. In these cases, the property owner must refrain from purposefully injuring the bare licensee or creating new dangers without warning. Finally, trespassers are those that enter another’s a property without permission. In these cases, the owner must only refrain from intentionally hurting the individual.

The doctrine of res ipsa loquitor relates to the plaintiff’s burden of proving a negligence case. Generally, the fact that an accident or injury occurred is not evidence of negligence itself. However, in cases where the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor is applied, a plaintiff may be able to show that the type of accident itself signifies that negligence can be inferred in that case. In a Maryland car accident case, the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor can be applied if the accident is one that would not normally occur in the absence of the operator’s negligence, and the facts make it clear that there should be an inference of negligence. For example, a car rolling down a hill shortly after it is parked may be a situation in which the doctrine would be applied, and negligence could be inferred.

The doctrine permits a plaintiff in a Maryland accident case to establish a prima facie case of a defendant’s negligence. To invoke the doctrine under Maryland law, the plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that: (1) the injury is one that would not normally occur absent negligence; (2) the defendant had exclusive control of the instrument that caused the injury; and (3) the injury was not caused by the plaintiff.

In a recent case, a state appeals court considered whether the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor could be applied in the case of a gate at a county that closed on and injured an attorney. The plaintiff (the attorney) went to meet a client at a county jail, and the interior gate at the jail closed on her unexpectedly, injuring her. The plaintiff filed a complaint against the county. The plaintiff requested a jury instruction on res ipsa loquitor, explaining that the jury could find that the incident was such a type that it would not have occurred without negligence on the part of the defendant. The jury subsequently returned a verdict in the plaintiff’s favor.

If a person is injured on property owned by a business, the business might be liable for the person’s injuries, depending on the circumstances. Business owners owe customers and guests a duty to exercise ordinary care to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition. To prevail on a Maryland premises liability claim, a plaintiff must prove that a dangerous condition existed on the defendant’s premises, the defendant had a duty to the plaintiff, the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the condition, the defendant’s knowledge existed for long enough that the defendant had the opportunity to remove it or to warn the plaintiff, and the defendant’s failure to act caused the plaintiff’s injury.

A plaintiff must demonstrate that a defective condition existed for long enough that the defendant had a duty to inspect to discover the defect and remedy it. The purpose of the requirement is to ensure that the dangerous condition existed for long enough that the defendant should have discovered it and to determine the amount of time the hazards were present between inspections.

In a recent case before a state appellate court, the court held that a business owner may be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries after she fell on a tree root outside the business. In that case, the plaintiff was walking to the Chick-fil-A restaurant and tripped on the partially-exposed root, injuring two bones in her leg. The plaintiff had walked to the restaurant from her job nearby many times before by walking across a dirt area she and other pedestrians used to access the restaurant’s parking lot. According to the evidence, the root stuck out about two inches and was not in this condition four days prior, when a landscaping crew had inspected the area for tripping hazards.

When someone slips and falls, causing injuries, they may be entitled to bring a personal injury lawsuit against whoever owns the property or was responsible for leaving it in a hazardous condition. Maryland slip and fall accidents are frequently brought against cleaning companies for failing to post “wet floor” notices, or against grocery store owners who fail to notice or remedy a leak that causes a customer to slip and suffer injuries. However, Maryland residents should be aware that not every slip and fall case leads to a successful personal injury suit.

For example, take a recent slip and fall case decided in a state appellate court. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was working in an airport when the accident occurred. One evening, after completing her shift, she went to an office elsewhere in the airport to turn in some paperwork and money. As she got off of an escalator, she noticed a man cleaning the airport was to her left and a “wet floor” sign. She turned right and walked towards the office when she slipped and fell. Unfortunately, she landed hard on her right side, striking her head and briefly losing consciousness. When she regained consciousness, she noticed that her clothes were wet. As a result of her fall, she suffered neck and spinal injuries that required surgery.

The plaintiff brought suit against the independent contractor responsible for cleaning the area. Her suit was based on the defendant’s negligence, claiming that they had knowledge of the danger that she did not have but failed to warn her of the hazard of the wet floor. The defendant moved for summary judgment and to have the case dismissed, arguing that the plaintiff also had knowledge of the hazard. The trial court granted their motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

There are certain personal injury cases where there is no specific evidence tying the defendant to the accident, but it is clear that the defendant caused the accident and should be held liable. In these instances, the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur can often be utilized. Res ipsa loquitur is Latin for the “thing speaks for itself” and allows a jury to infer the defendant’s negligence without needing direct evidence. While not often used, res ipsa loquitor can be extremely beneficial to help Maryland plaintiffs recover for their injuries, who might not be able to so otherwise.

In a recent state appellate case, a plaintiff was injured leaving his doctor’s office. Stepping onto the elevator, the plaintiff did not notice the floor of the elevator was two feet below the landing. The plaintiff sued the property owner, arguing the owner was negligent by not fixing the elevator. Among other claims, he argued the defendant was liable under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. Although the defendant had sole control over the elevator, and was in charge of its maintenance, the court granted summary judgment for the defendant. During the appeal, the plaintiff chose not to raise the issue of res ipsa loquitor, meaning a jury would not hear this claim.

When a plaintiff asserts res ipsa loquitor in a Maryland personal injury case, they are claiming that negligence may be presumed from the circumstances of the accident. Unlike a traditional negligence claim, a plaintiff relying on res ipsa loquitor does not need to establish the traditional requirements of negligence, nor do they need to provide direct evidence linking the defendant to the accident.

A state supreme court was recently tasked with deciding whether the owner of a church could be held liable after the plaintiff was injured on the stairs outside of the building. While Maryland landowners often have to warn visitors of any danger, they do not need to if the dangerous condition was an open and obvious hazard that a reasonable person would recognize. Ultimately, the court concluded that the dangerous condition was open and obvious, and the church owner was not liable for the plaintiff’s injury under a premise liability theory.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was hurt while carrying a casket down the church’s outdoor steps. Although the plaintiff had previously used these steps, he tripped near the top, falling into the church building and injuring himself.

While landowners generally have a duty to keep their property safe, in Maryland, they do not need to warn others if the hazard is “open and obvious” to a reasonable person. When the dangerous condition is open and obvious, the landowner cannot be held liable under a premise liability theory. In this case, the court needed to determine whether the top step outside of the church was an open and obvious hazard that a reasonable person would have taken appropriate care to avoid. The court noted that the set of stairs the plaintiff tripped on had five steps, with the top step an additional four inches higher than the others. Additionally, the top step was composed of red bricks while the other steps were made of gray concrete. Finally, the court took note of the fact that the plaintiff walked down the stairs a few minutes before the accident. Because of these factors, the court concluded that the differences between the top step and the other four would be readily apparent to most people.

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