Assumption of Risk: Maryland Slip and Fall Accident Law

Maryland slip and fall accidents can result in serious personal injuries, and although the nature of the accident itself may seem simple, the legal issues in these cases are often anything but. A previous post in this blog discusses how these cases are often litigated in order to determine the reasonableness of inaction or action by the landowner, the dangerousness of the condition, and both parties’ knowledge of the condition. One common defense on the part of the premises owner or occupier is that the plaintiff who slipped, fell, and suffered an injury should not be able to recover damages because they knew of the dangerous condition on the premises and decided to proceed anyways. This is called “assumption of risk” because the plaintiff is said to have assumed the risk of the hazard.

Two recent cases have dealt with assumption of risk in Maryland:  

In Thomas v. Panco Management (2011), the Maryland Court of Appeals held that a court cannot, as a matter of law, hold that a plaintiff had knowledge of a danger, appreciated the danger, and voluntarily confronted the danger if the facts are reasonably in dispute. In this case, a tenant slipped and fell on black ice on a sidewalk that led to her apartment building. The landlord argued that she knew about the ice and that she voluntarily chose to walk on that sidewalk rather than take a separate, back exit from her building. Even though the tenant admitted she knew the sidewalk was frequently slippery, the court held that the facts did not clearly establish that the tenant knew of the ice that she slipped on. The court also held that there was not sufficient evidence that the back exit was reasonably safe.


Likewise, in Poole v. Coakley & Williams Construction (2011), the Maryland Court of Appeals held that a plaintiff must have actual knowledge of the specific hazard for summary judgment that the plaintiff assumed the risk to be appropriate. In that case, an employee of a commercial tenant slipped and fell on black ice in a parking lot. He testified that although he saw ice in the parking lot, he picked a path that he thought avoided the ice and did not see the patch of black ice upon which he slipped. The Court held that he did not have actual knowledge of the hazard, and the issue of assumption of risk should go to a jury.

Legal issues in slip and fall can be complex. However, the above two cases demonstrate that issues such as assumption of risk are more likely to be decided by juries, which may be more sympathetic to a slip and fall plaintiff. Using the services of an experienced Maryland personal injury attorney can help recover the damages that you deserve.

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Justin P. Katz
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Justin Katz is a personal injury lawyer who represents injury victims in Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC
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