How Maryland’s Recreational Use Statute Can Affect an Accident Victim’s Case

Frequently, this blog discusses cases in which a defendant landowner faces liability for injuries that occur on their property. These cases, referred to as Maryland premises liability cases, are brought under the general theory of negligence. Thus, to succeed in a Maryland premises liability case, an accident victim must show that the defendant was somehow negligent and that the defendant’s negligence was the cause of their injuries.

While the general rule states that a landowner is liable for a guest’s injuries that were the result of the landowner’s negligence, the Maryland recreational use statute provides landowners immunity in certain limited situations. Under Maryland Code section 5-1104, a landowner who permits others to use their property for “any recreational or educational” purpose without charging a fee is not liable for guest’s injuries. This applies to both public and private landowners. The law’s stated purpose is to “encourage any owner of land to make [their property] available to the public for any recreational and educational purpose by limiting the owner’s liability.”

The recreational use statute does not afford protection to landowners who willfully or maliciously failed to guard or warn against a dangerous condition. A recent state appellate opinion illustrates how courts interpret recreational use statutes, as well as the “willful or malicious” exception.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was riding his bicycle down a grassy slope in a public park when his front tire struck a crack in a concrete retaining wall. The plaintiff was thrown from his bike, and landed on his left arm, resulting in a double compound fracture.

The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against the city, arguing that it was negligent in maintaining the park. The plaintiff sought discovery of the city’s maintenance records related to the park. However, the city had destroyed those records. The plaintiff argued that his case should be permitted to proceed to trial based on the fact that the destroyed documents may have indicated the city was aware of the hazard that caused the plaintiff’s fall.

The court disagreed with the plaintiff’s argument. First, the court held that there was no indication that the city intentionally destroyed the records, or did so in bad faith, the plaintiff was not entitled to an adverse inference that the documents would have been favorable to his case. The court went on to explain that, even if the plaintiff were able to obtain an adverse inference based on the missing records, the plaintiff still would not be able to establish that the city acted willfully or maliciously, which he could not establish based on the evidence presented.

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

If you or someone you care about 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 law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC we proudly represent injury victims and their families across Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. To learn more about how our dedicated team of Maryland personal injury lawyers can help you pursue a claim for compensation, call 410-654-3600 today.

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