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Property Owners’ Non-Delegable Duties to Persons Invited onto their Property

Property owners are not generally liable for any person’s injury while on their property by merely by showing that the person was injured.  The law stipulates that the business or property owner must have known or should have known, through the exercise of reasonable care, that the defective condition existed and that it involved an unreasonable risk of harm to persons lawfully visiting their property.

Business property owners in Maryland owe a duty to their visitors, customers, and invitees who come on to their property.  An invitee is a person invited or permitted to enter or remain on another’s property for purposes connected with or related to the owner’s business.  Sometimes there are situations in which property owners seek to shift the blame for someone falling on their property to another person and/or entity.  For example, businesses often hire property management companies and/or snow removal companies to manage and maintain their property.  The business owner may then seek to place blame for someone falling on the property onto those hired persons or businesses.  Is it permissible for a property owner to relieve itself of any negligence when someone is hurt on their property?  Typically, no.

Maryland has established that an owner of property has a duty to exercise reasonable and ordinary care to keep his/her premises safe for invitees, and to protect him from injury caused by an unreasonable risk that the invitee, by exercising ordinary care for his own safety will not discover.  The duty imposed on property owner’s is non-delegable. Non-delegable does not mean that an owner is not permitted to delegate the task to a contractor.  Certainly, business owners are permitted to hire companies to perform tasks on their property.  However, a property owner cannot transfer their responsibility or evade the risk associated with the task by allocating it to the contractor.  In other words, the property owner may certainly hire individuals or entities to maintain or manage the property, but they may not avoid liability of any unsafe harms on their property associated with the maintenance of the property.  The property owner is ultimately responsible for ensuring that their premises are safe for those who are invited to the property no matter who else they have working on their property.

An exception to the non-delegable rule, is when the property owners lease and/rent out their property.  A property owner who has leased portions of the property remains responsible for only the areas they have not leased and still retain control over, such as common areas. 

Understanding who was responsible for your injury can be confusing.  While there may be multiple persons or entities responsible for your injury, it is best to seek legal advice as soon as possible to understand the duties that those entities may have owed to you at the time that you were injured on their property.


By Meghan Young, April 11, 2024

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