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When is an Injury Foreseeable?

In order for an injured plaintiff to prevail in a negligence claim, his or her injuries must have resulted from a danger that was reasonably foreseeable by the defendant. Foreseeablity is therefore a key element in negligence. What constitutes a reasonably foreseeable danger for this purpose? This answer is not always obvious, as is illustrated by a recent decision of the Court of Special Appeals for Maryland in Sutton-Witherspoon v. S.A.F.E. Management, Inc. As this case illustrates, determining what is reasonably foreseeable is a complex question that depends on the parties involved as well as the particular circumstances of each case. That is why it is wise for an injured party to consult an experienced personal injury attorney who can explain and evaluate the element of foreseeability, along with the other necessary elements of a potential negligence claim.

What Happened in Sutton-Witherspoon v. S.A.F.E. Management, Inc.?

Many Charles and Prince George County football fans remember back in 2013, when the Baltimore Ravens prevailed over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. Many of us also remember the parade and free celebration in honor of the team that took place the following week.That celebration provided the backdrop for what happened in the case of Sutton-Witherspoon v. S.A.F.E. Management, Inc. Here is a brief summary of the facts:

A crowd of fans gathered at the stadium, where the post-parade celebration was to take place. The stadium was filled to capacity, however, and the gates were closed before the parade even reached the celebration site. Outside of the stadium, the plaintiff and her family watched the parade. They took pictures with the players and got autographs. At some point, they heard that one of the stadium gates had been opened. As the plaintiff headed towards the gate, along with her young son, the crowd grew larger. The plaintiff and her son became separated from one another, and, eventually, knocked to the ground, where they were trampled by the crowd. The plaintiff and her son were eventually transported by wheelchair into the stadium, where they were treated for their injuries and then taken to the hospital.

Were the Injuries Foreseeable?

The trial court decided that the defendants – in this case, the Ravens, the stadium and team’s crowd control and guest services contractors – were entitled to summary judgment. This decision would have resulted in the dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims. The basis of the trial court’s decision was that the facts did not show that the defendants had “constructive notice” of any dangerous conditions at the stadium. The plaintiffs appealed, however. The Court of Special Appeals for Maryland reversed the trial court’s decision, so that the case could continue. The Court of Special Appeals found that the trial court didn’t properly consider the plaintiff’s arguments that:

  • The assembling of such a large crowd was reasonably foreseeable and could have created a risk of harm like the harm that the plaintiff suffered, and
  • The defendants failed to take reasonable safety precautions to ensure the safety of the crowd.

Foreseeability is Important

As the real-life scenario described above illustrates, foreseeability is an important consideration in a negligence case. If you have been injured and believe that you have a negligence claim, foreseeability is one of the factors that will have to be established. Contact the Law Office of Robert R. Castro if you want more information about foreseeability, or to discuss any other aspects of your potential negligence claim.

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