Court Finds Residential Lease Agreement Effectively Modified the Applicable Statute of Limitations in Recent Premises Liability Lawsuit

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case presenting an interesting issue that may arise in Maryland premises liability cases. The court was tasked with determining whether a clause in a residential lease agreement that included limiting the statute of limitations was enforceable. Ultimately, the court concluded that the clause was enforceable, and thus, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case as untimely.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff slipped and fell after stepping on a curb that crumbled under her weight. The curb was located in a common area of the apartment complex where the plaintiff lived.

In the jurisdiction where the case arose, the statute of limitations for a personal injury lawsuit is two years. However, the residential lease agreement signed by the plaintiff prior to moving into her apartment contained a clause requiring she bring any lawsuit within one year of when the cause of action accrues. Specifically, the clause stated that any case “must be instituted within one year of the date any claim or cause of action arises and that any action filed after one year from such date shall be time barred as a matter of law.”

The plaintiff filed a premises liability case against the defendant apartment complex. The case was filed just a few days before the two-year statute of limitations that normally applies to personal injury cases. In response, the defendant sought the dismissal of the plaintiff’s case, based on the clause in the residential lease limiting the statute of limitations to one year.

The plaintiff made several arguments in an attempt to avoid the effect of the reduced statute of limitations. First, the plaintiff claimed that the clause did not apply to a personal injury lawsuit such as hers because it did not explicitly state that it applied to these kinds of cases. Second, the plaintiff argued that, if the clause were to be read to include personal injury lawsuits, it would be overly broad and thus unenforceable. Finally, the plaintiff claimed that it was not fair that the defendant was able to limit her ability to file the case.

The court rejected each of the plaintiff’s arguments, noting that under state law, parties are able to contract around the default rules regarding a statute of limitations. And just as a prospective defendant can waive the applicability of the statute of limitations, a prospective plaintiff can agree that any case must be brought earlier than the generally applicable statute of limitations. Thus, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case as untimely.

Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured on the property of another party, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Maryland premises liability lawsuit. The dedicated Maryland personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience handling all types of Maryland slip-and-fall cases, including those involving potential issues with the applicable statute of limitations. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Court Discusses Insurance Company’s Obligations in Horse-Drawn Carriage Accident, Maryland Accident Law Blog, May 15, 2018.

Pre-Suit Requirements in Maryland Medical Malpractice Lawsuits, Maryland Accident Law Blog, June 1, 2018.

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