Court Discusses Property Owner’s Non-Delegable Duty to Keep Area Safe in Recent Premises Liability Case

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case discussing whether the defendant, the owner of a car repair shop, could be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. The court ultimately concluded that the defendant’s duty to maintain the shop in a reasonably safe condition was a non-delegable duty, and thus, the jury’s decision to hold the defendant partially responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries was proper.

The case is important for Maryland slip-and-fall accident victims in that it discusses what a property owner’s non-delegable duties are and under what circumstances they may be transferred to another party.

The Facts of the Case

The defendant owned an auto repair shop. He leased a portion of the shop to another mechanic but maintained an office on location and continued to use the shop. The defendant was the only one with keys to the shop, and the mechanic could not enter or use the shop without the defendant being present.

The lease agreement between the defendant and the mechanic specified that the mechanic would obtain liability insurance and agreed to hold the defendant “harmless from any liability or damage, whether caused by [the mechanic’s] operations or otherwise.” However, the mechanic never obtained liability insurance.

One day, the plaintiff brought his car for repair. The mechanic placed the plaintiff’s car up on a lift and invited the plaintiff into the shop to see an oil leak that he had discovered. As the mechanic lowered the plaintiff’s car, it crushed the plaintiff’s foot. The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit. In response to the plaintiff’s claims, the defendant argued that he could not be held liable for the actions of the mechanic. The case proceeded to trial, and a jury returned a verdict in the plaintiff’s favor.

The Court Finds the Defendant Had a Non-Delegable Duty to Maintain the Shop

The court rejected each the defendant’s arguments on appeal. First, the court explained that as a landowner, the defendant had a non-delegable duty to maintain the shop in a reasonably safe manner. The court explained that it is only when a landowner delivers “full possession and complete control” of their property that this duty transfers to another party.

Here, the court explained that by keeping an office on location and continuing to use the shop notwithstanding the terms of the lease, the jury was free to find that the defendant did not surrender “full possession and complete control” over to the mechanic. The court also noted that the evidence was sufficient for the jury to find that the defendant breached that duty. The court explained that the plaintiff’s injuries were caused by heavy machinery that presented a foreseeable danger to customers. Thus, the court affirmed the jury’s verdict.

Have You Been Injured While on Another’s Property?

If you or someone you love has recently suffered a serious injury after a Maryland slip-and-fall accident, the attorneys at the Maryland personal injury law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC can help. It may be that you are entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you sustained. At Lebowitz & Mzhen, we have decades of experience handling all types of personal injury claims across Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. To learn more about how we can help you recover for your injuries, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

How Strict Liability Applies in Maryland Dog Bite Cases, Maryland Accident Law Blog, October 15, 2018.

Maryland Does Not Allow Dram Shop or Social Host Liability, Maryland Accident Law Blog, October 1, 2018.

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