When Can Maryland Businesses Be Held Accountable for Hazards on Their Property?

If a person is injured on property owned by a business, the business might be liable for the person’s injuries, depending on the circumstances. Business owners owe customers and guests a duty to exercise ordinary care to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition. To prevail on a Maryland premises liability claim, a plaintiff must prove that a dangerous condition existed on the defendant’s premises, the defendant had a duty to the plaintiff, the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the condition, the defendant’s knowledge existed for long enough that the defendant had the opportunity to remove it or to warn the plaintiff, and the defendant’s failure to act caused the plaintiff’s injury.

A plaintiff must demonstrate that a defective condition existed for long enough that the defendant had a duty to inspect to discover the defect and remedy it. The purpose of the requirement is to ensure that the dangerous condition existed for long enough that the defendant should have discovered it and to determine the amount of time the hazards were present between inspections.

In a recent case before a state appellate court, the court held that a business owner may be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries after she fell on a tree root outside the business. In that case, the plaintiff was walking to the Chick-fil-A restaurant and tripped on the partially-exposed root, injuring two bones in her leg. The plaintiff had walked to the restaurant from her job nearby many times before by walking across a dirt area she and other pedestrians used to access the restaurant’s parking lot. According to the evidence, the root stuck out about two inches and was not in this condition four days prior, when a landscaping crew had inspected the area for tripping hazards.

The plaintiff sued the restaurant owner for damages. The restaurant moved for summary judgment, which the court denied, and the owner appealed the decision. The owner argued that the plaintiff should have known about the defect because she had walked there many times before. Yet, the court noted that the evidence reflected that the root only became a hazard in the four days before the fall, and there was no evidence she had walked there during those four days. The owner also argued that there was no evidence they had actual knowledge of the hazard. Yet, the court noted that the owner did not need actual knowledge to be held liable as long as it had constructive knowledge. The court noted that the owner may have lacked a reasonable procedure for inspecting the area for hazards because it did not have any policies for inspecting the outside area.

The owner also argued that the root was a natural object, and it did not have a duty to remove it. The court explained that the fact that the root was a natural part of the land did not absolve the restaurant of its duty to inspect the premises and remove hazards. Accordingly, the court found there were at least genuine issues of fact, and the case could not be dismissed.

Call a Maryland Premises Liability Attorney

If you have been injured on someone else’s property, do not wait to speak to an experienced Maryland premises liability attorney. The dedicated personal injury attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen handle premises liability cases and other accident cases in the Baltimore region and throughout the state of Maryland. They offer free initial consultations and will tailor their services to meet each client’s needs. Lebowitz & Mzhen, Personal Injury Lawyers, can help you assess your situation today. Call them now at (800) 654-1949 or online to set up a free, no-obligation consultation.

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