Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued an opinion in a slip-and-fall case illustrating several important principles relevant to Maryland personal injury cases. The case presented the court with an opportunity to discuss what a plaintiff must establish in order to survive a summary judgment challenge by the defense. Here, the court held that since the plaintiff did not present any evidence that the defendant knew or should have known about the black ice that caused the plaintiff’s fall, summary judgment in favor of the defense was appropriate.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was injured as he got out of his car on the top level of a parking garage at the defendant hospital. The testimony at trial established that it had snowed several days that week and that there was visible ice and snow underneath some of the cars. However, the ice that caused the plaintiff’s fall was not visible. After his fall, hospital employees came to the plaintiff’s aid. One of the employees testified that she too had difficulty keeping her footing while on the icy pavement.
The hospital presented evidence that a security guard patrolled the area approximately every two hours. When the security officer noticed a snow or ice hazard, he was to call the hospital’s engineering department and remain on scene until an engineer arrived to clear the hazard. Evidence was presented that the area was patrolled that day about an hour and half before the plaintiff’s fall. Additionally, as per hospital policy, salt had been spread across the upper level of the parking garage to melt any ice that might have been present.
The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the hospital, claiming that its negligence in failing to safely clear the ice caused his injuries. In response, the hospital filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that there was no evidence that it knew or should have known about the hazard.
The court began its analysis by explaining that to recover damages under a premises liability theory, a plaintiff must present evidence that the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard. Here, the court held, the plaintiff failed to establish the defendant’s knowledge of the black ice.
The court noted that the hospital had a reasonable inspection procedure that was designed to find and remedy hazards. Additionally, all of its procedures were followed on the day of the plaintiff’s fall. Thus, despite the hospital’s reasonable efforts, the hazard was not discovered. The court also rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the hospital actually caused the hazard by applying the salt to the naturally occurring ice, causing it to melt and then refreeze.
Have You Been Injured on Another Party’s Property?
If you have recently been injured in a Maryland slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Proving a Maryland premises liability lawsuit is not always as straightforward as it seems, and depending on the surrounding circumstances, the property owner may attempt to argue a defense to your claim. The skilled Maryland personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience representing victims in all types of personal injury matters. To learn more, and to speak with a dedicated attorney about your case, call 410-654-3600 today. Calling is free, and we will not bill you for our services unless we are able to help you obtain compensation.
More Blog Posts:
Plaintiff Injured by Fallen Tree Permitted to Proceed with Claim Against Apartment Complex, Maryland Accident Law Blog, October 9, 2017.
Settlement Agreements in Maryland Personal Injury Lawsuits, Maryland Accident Law Blog, October 23, 2017.