As a general rule, the law requires that all land owners maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition, and warn their guests about hazards that may not be evident. Under Maryland premises liability law, the duty a landowner owes her guest depends on several circumstances; however, Maryland businesses owe their customers the highest duty of care.
While premises liability law may seem straightforward, it can often get complicated in its application. For example, while it’s beyond question that a business owner is responsible to maintain their store in a reasonably safe condition, what about the approach to and from the store?
A recent state appellate opinion discusses a plaintiff’s case against a store for an injury occurring in the store’s parking lot.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff had finished shopping at a Big Lots store and was walking to her car when she slipped and fell on a wet substance in the store’s parking lot. The parking lot was owned and maintained by a third-party company that operated the shopping center where the Big Lots store was located. The spot where the plaintiff fell was about 45 feet from the doors to the store.
After the plaintiff’s fall, the Big Lots store manager came out to clean up the substance that the plaintiff had slipped on. He explained that the shopping center is in charge of maintaining the parking lot, but when he sees trash or some other a hazard he cleans it up.
The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against Big Lots, arguing that it was negligent in allowing the spill to exist and for failing to clean it up. Big Lots argued that the parking lot was not its responsibility to maintain. The trail court agreed with Big Lots and dismissed the plaintiff’s case, who then appealed.
The Case Goes Up on Appeal
On appeal, the lower court’s decision was affirmed. The court explained that a business may be liable for injuries occurring in the area immediately near the store’s entranceway, but that the plaintiff’s injury occurred too far away from the store to hold the store liable. The court explained that it the areas “contiguous, adjacent to, and touching,” the entranceway that a store must maintain. The court went further, holding that this area is limited to “the last few steps” a customer takes before getting into the store. Thus, the court affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s case.
Importantly, had the plaintiff’s case proceeded against the company that owned and maintained the parking lot, the outcome may have been different. However, the shopping center was not named in the case. That may have been because the shopping centered settled with the plaintiff prior to the case reaching trial.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Slip-and-Fall Accident?
If you have recently slipped and fallen when shopping in or around the Maryland area, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you have sustained. The dedicated Maryland personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have extensive experience representing those who have been injured in all types of commercial establishments including grocery stores, shopping malls, and restaurants. To learn more about how we can help you recover for your injuries, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
The Importance of Following the Procedural Requirements in Cases Against the Government, Maryland Accident Law Blog, August 27, 2018.
Maryland Court of Appeals Allows Premises Liability Case to Proceed Based on Defective Condition of a Property Built in 1990, Maryland Accident Law Blog, July 2, 2018.