It has often been said that the best offense is a good defense. Thus, it is essential for those who have been injured in a Maryland slip-and-fall accident to understand the common ways that a defendant will try to defeat a plaintiff’s claim. There are two basic arguments that Maryland premises liability defendants use to evade accountability.
At its most basic, a Maryland premises liability claim requires the plaintiff to establish that the defendant landowner was negligent in the maintenance of their property. It may be that a landowner failed to warn visitors of a known hazard or that the landowner failed to remedy a hazard that, given the circumstances, the landowner should have known about. In either case, to prove a landowner’s negligence, the plaintiff must show that the defendant landowner knew or should have known about the hazard.
One common tactic is for a defendant landowner to argue that he did not have knowledge of the hazard. Importantly, Maryland premises liability law does not require a plaintiff to prove that a landowner had actual knowledge of a hazard. Indeed, most Maryland slip-and-fall cases proceed on the theory that the landowner had constructive knowledge of the hazard.
Constructive knowledge is a legal term that refers to the process by which a fact-finder imputes knowledge to a defendant based on the surrounding circumstances. In other words, if the circumstances suggest that a reasonably cautious or attentive landowner would be aware of the hazard, the fact-finder will assume that the landowner knew of the hazard. In some cases, defendant landowners will attempt to evade liability by showing that they routinely inspect the property for hazards.
For example, in a recent state appellate decision involving a slip-and-fall accident occurring in a grocery store, the court determined that the store was not able to rely on its inspection procedure to show that it conducted reasonable efforts to locate and cure any hazards in the store. The court held that, because the evidence suggested that the inspection procedure was not carried out according to store policy on the day of the plaintiff’s injury, the grocery store could not benefit from its “reasonable inspection procedure.”
Another common defense in a Maryland premises liability lawsuit is the plaintiff’s contributory negligence. Maryland applies the very strict doctrine of contributory negligence, which precludes a plaintiff from recovering for their injuries if they are found to be even the slightest at fault for the accident resulting in their injuries. Thus, defendant landowners commonly argue that the plaintiff was partially responsible for their own injuries.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Slip-and-Fall Accident?
If you or someone you care about has recently been injured on the property of another individual, or while at a business or store, you may be entitled to financial compensation for the injuries you have sustained. At the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, we represent Maryland slip-and-fall accident victims in all types of premises liability cases. We also represent clients across Virginia and Washington, D.C. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.