Contributory Negligence in Maryland Premises Liability Cases

As we have discussed in other posts, the legal doctrine of contributory negligence precludes personal injury victims who are found to be partially at fault for their injuries from pursuing a claim of financial compensation. While Maryland’s contributory negligence law, in most people’s eyes, is outdated and overly harsh, for now, it governs how courts determine liability in Maryland personal injury accidents.

Contributory negligence is often discussed in the context of auto accidents. However, the doctrine also applies in Maryland slip-and-fall cases. A recent state appellate decision illustrates why contributory negligence is so harmful to Maryland premises liability plaintiffs.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff owned property in the defendant condo complex. One day, the plaintiff was walking along a sidewalk in the complex when she tripped on a section of uneven cement. The plaintiff frequented the area where she fell. Evidently, the cement area had been marked by complex management with blue dots, indicating it to be an area that needed to be repaired.

The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the condo complex. The plaintiff made two claims. First, the plaintiff claimed that the complex had a duty to warn her of the dangerous condition. Second, the plaintiff argued that the complex was negligent in failing to repair a known hazard.

The complex argued that the uneven cement was an open and obvious hazard, and that the plaintiff should not be permitted to pursue a claim because she should have noticed the hazard. The trial court agreed and dismissed the plaintiff’s claims. The plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the court reversed the lower court’s decision to dismiss the plaintiff’s second claim. The court explained that the condition was, as a matter of law, an open and obvious hazard. That being the case, the complex had no duty to warn the plaintiff of its existence. However, the court held that the plaintiff’s failure-to-maintain claim should have been permitted to proceed towards trial. The court reasoned the complex knew of the hazard’s existence because it had marked the area with blue dots, indicating it needed repair. The court went on to explain that the fact that the hazard was open and obvious did not alleviate the complex of its duty to repair the hazard, only of its duty to warn the plaintiff.

Had this claim been heard by a Maryland court, the plaintiff would have to overcome the hurdle of establishing that she was not at fault for her fall. She may have done this by explaining that she never noticed the small height disparity between the two concrete slabs.

Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Slip-and-Fall Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you have sustained. At the Maryland law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, we represent injury victims and their families in all types of personal injury claims across Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. We provide free consultations to prospective clients to help them understand their rights and explain how we can help them recover for their injuries. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule your free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Appellate Court Rejects Defendant’s Appeal Based on Allegedly Misleading Jury Instruction, Maryland Accident Law Blog, February 4, 2019.

The Issue of Government Immunity in Maryland Personal Injury Cases, Maryland Accident Law Blog, January 16, 2019.

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