Maryland Supreme Court Decision Clarifies Landowner’s Duty in Accidental Drowning Case

In 2010, a young three-year old boy died when he climbed through a gate and into a swimming pool in his parents’ apartment complex. The family of the boy filed charges against the apartment complex, among others, alleging that they were negligent because they breached “a duty to maintain the Country Place pool in a reasonably safe condition for all residents of Country Place Apartments, and particularly children of all ages.”

At trial, the defendants claimed that they didn’t owe the boy any duty of care (and thus could not be held liable for the accident) because the boy was trespassing when he entered the closed pool. However, the boy’s family pointed to a Maryland law that required all pools be properly fenced in and argued that the defendants were negligent per se for their failure to comply with that law.

At trial, the court died with the defendants, finding that the law creating a duty only came into play once it was established that the person in question was not a trespasser. However, on appeal to the intermediate court, the decision was reversed. That court held that the statutory duty arose regardless of the injured person’s status.

The defendants, who lost on appeal, then asked the Maryland Supreme Court to hear the case. After doing so, the Court affirmed the intermediate court, holding that the duty created by the Maryland statute applies regardless if the injured person is a trespasser.

Blackburn Limited Partnership v. Paul

In the recent case, Blackburn Limited Partnership v. Paul, the Maryland Supreme Court resolved a previously unanswered question: whether landowners owe a duty to trespassers if a statute creates a general duty.

In Maryland, the default is that land owners do not owe any duty of care to trespassers except to “avoid willful and wanton misconduct or entrapment.” However, there is also a statute that applies to all pool owners, requiring certain fencing be put up around the pool to prevent young children from approaching the pool. The Court noted that these two rules are at odds and found that the statutory duty trumps the general rule that landowners owe no duty to trespassers. Thus it was an error for the lower court to dismiss the plaintiff’s claim against the apartment and the plaintiff will be allowed to move forward with her case.

Have You Been Involved in a Maryland Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been involved in a Maryland accident, you should speak to a dedicated Maryland accident attorney as soon as possible. In many situations, the law is unsettled and the party who best persuades the court that the law should apply favorably to him or her will be victorious. For that reason it is crucial to retain the assistance of an experienced and dedicated Maryland personal injury attorney to assist you with the preparation of your case. To learn more about the accident laws in Maryland, and to set up your free initial consultation with an attorney, click here or call 410-654-3600 today.

More Blog Posts:

Family of Man with Down Syndrome Sues the State of Maryland After He’s Killed While Being Detained By Off-Duty Police, Maryland Accident Law Blog, June 19, 2014.

Drowning Death During Tough Mudder Competition Leads to Wrongful Death Lawsuit Maryland Accident Law Blog, June 5, 2014.

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