Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case raising an interesting issue that all Maryland slip-and-fall injury victims should be aware of. The case discussed the potential liability of third-parties who may not initially be thought of as responsible parties.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was an employee at a restaurant. While working, the employee was asked to empty a grease trap into a dumpster in the rear of the restaurant. While the plaintiff was walking the trap back to the dumpster, he stepped in an open water meter, causing him to spill hot oil on himself.
The plaintiff initially named his employer and several related parties (the employers) in his lawsuit. In response, those parties named the defendant maintenance company (the defendant) in a third-party complaint. The employers argued that the defendant was liable for the plaintiff’s injuries under a contract the defendant had to perform maintenance of the parking lot area. The plaintiff then named the defendant in his lawsuit, as well.
This case involved the plaintiff’s claim against the defendant maintenance company. The plaintiff argued that, under the contract with his employers, the defendant had agreed to provide maintenance services, including to “report any problems or defects that may be observed during each service visit.” The contract also indicated that the defendant would “plan and conduct the [s]ervices to safeguard all persons and property from injury.”
The trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s claims against the defendant, finding that the defendant only agreed to clean the parking lot and that it owed no duty to the plaintiff to warn of potential hazards. The plaintiff appealed.
The Case is Reversed on Appeal
On appeal, the court reversed the lower court’s decision, allowing the plaintiff’s case to proceed. The court first noted that a landowner could not delegate the duty to maintain safe premises to a third party unless it is clearly apparent from the language of the agreement.
Here, the court held that the language of the contract clearly indicated that the defendant was to report any errors or defects it encountered during routine maintenance visits and that it would perform its services “to safeguard all persons and property from injury.” Absent any exclusion clause, the court held this language was sufficient to impose a duty on the defendant to warn of any potential hazards.
Having established the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff, the court also determined that the defendant’s failure to warn of the open water meter was a potential violation of that duty. Thus, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s case should proceed towards trial or settlement negotiations.
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. At the dedicated Maryland personal injury law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC we represent injury victims in all types of claims, including slip-and-fall cases. To learn more about how we can help you pursue a claim for compensation against the parties responsible for your injuries, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
Court Permits Medical Malpractice Case to Proceed Despite Lack of Expert Affidavit, Maryland Accident Law Blog, November 8, 2018.
Plaintiff’s Medical Malpractice Case Dismissed for Failure to Provide Sworn Expert Testimony, Maryland Accident Law Blog, November 23, 2018.