Major Change in Law For Slip and Falls on Ice in Maryland
Posted on behalf of Goldberg Finnegan, LLC on Nov 06, 2011 in Negligence
Great News! This week the Maryland Court of Appeals changed the law in Maryland and made it so that those injured as a result of slip and falls on ice and "black ice" once again can win in Court in Maryland. On October 31, 2011 the Maryland Court of Appeals, in a decision by Judge Greene--Mary Thomas v. Panco Management--overturned parts of Allen v. Marriott (and had previously disavowed parts of Allen in Poole v. Coakley & Williams (An October 27, 2011 case). In the Allen v. Marriott case, the Maryland Intermediate Appellate Court ruled that a person who falls on black ice has "assumed the risk" as a matter of law because people should know it can possibly be icy out after cold weather. This was a horrible opinion and it led to many individuals with serious injuries from slipping on ice having their cases thrown out of court. It created a terrible precedent that led to some Maryland injury lawyers not to take slip and fall on ice cases anymore. Insurance Companies stopped paying the cases because they knew that the defendant management companies would win every case in court based on the Allen v. Marriott precedent.
In Thomas v. Panco the Court explained that in Maryland the assumption of risk defense requires a defendant to establish that 1. the Plaintiff had knowledge of a dangerous risk, 2. the plaintiff had appreciation of the risk; and 3. the plaintiff voluntarily confronted the risk of danger. Generally the issue of assumption of the risk if for the jury (the fact finder) to decide. But if a person of normal intelligence MUST have understood the danger the issue is for the court. In this particular case the trial judge threw the case out based on the defense attorney arguing that Ms. Thomas "assumed the risk" of her injury as a matter of law. the Court of Appeals reversed holding that whether or not Ms. Thomas assumed the risk was a question of fact for the jury to decide. The Court explained that the
"....trial judge ruling on assumption of the risk was incorrect as the issue of Petitioner's assumption of the risk, including her knowledge of the risk of slipping on black ice, and the voluntariness of her conduct in using the front steps were questions of fact to be resolved by the jury rather than by the trial judge as a matter of law."
The case can be read in its entirety. Assumption of Risk. new case on black ice ot allen.pdf