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Assumption of Risk Not Strong Argument in Slip-and-Fall Cases Where Plaintiff Injured on Black Ice

Winter is just around the corner, which brings with it the colder weather, the holiday spirit, and excitement about the soon-to-be snow-blanketed streets. Though there is a romantic quality to the holiday season and winter, there also comes with it its warnings, dangerous, and treacherous conditions as a result of the snow and ice.

Slip-and-Fall Lawsuits

Slip-and-fall lawsuits come into play when a person is injured due to a fall associated with icy, wet, slippery conditions that should have been dealt with by the owner of the premises. An owner of a property, whether it is personal or business, is well-acquainted with his or her premises and knows if there are any dangers on site. Landowners, for example, are in a better position to know that their staircases are old and rotting and could lead to someone injuring themselves. A stranger who walks onto the premises will have little to no knowledge of this associated risk.

With regards to icy and snowy premises, there are some responsibilities of property owners to make safe their properties and the walkways surrounding the properties. This may include shoveling the snow, putting out mats on slippery-when-wet floors, and/or salting the walkways to help with traction.

Maryland Cases Outline Parameters of Assumption of Risk in Slip-and-Fall Claims

In 2011, two major cases in Maryland made clearer how ice and snow slip-and-fall lawsuits would proceed and the parameters around litigating a slip-and-fall case. Largely, the lawsuits limited the extent to which the defense could use the “assumption of risk” line of defense. The “assumption of risk” defense applies to show that the victim of the injury knew or should have known that the activity that he or she was engaged in is the type that has inherent injuries associated.

Black Ice is Difficult to See by Nature; Defense Has Difficulty Showing Knowledge Element

According to the lawsuits, in the past, the defense was able to show that a plaintiff in the lawsuit knew or should have known that the walkway or path was icy and slippery because it was snowing and cold. However, the court ruled that just because it had snowed and/or it was cold outside, the plaintiff did not voluntarily assume the risk of leaving his or her home during inclement weather and walking down sidewalks that are poorly maintained. Though the ruling rid the defense of their ability to show “assumption of risk” on behalf of the plaintiff, the plaintiff still has to prove negligence. Additionally, the “assumption of risk” argument is hard to apply to situations where a plaintiff slips and falls on black ice because the definition of black ice is that it is difficult and almost invisible to see, thus removing the “should have known” or “did know” aspect of “assumption of risk.”

Tenant’s Right to Leave Home

Finally, one of the lawsuits discussed above also determined the requirements on behalf of landlords and the surrounding walkways of the landlord’s property. By stating that there could be an “assumption of risk” when venturing out in the cold, it takes away a tenant’s fundamental right to leave his/her home during inclement weather and it limits the responsibilities of landlords. A landlord’s negligence is not barred because of this “assumption of risk” defense, except when the landlord is able to prove that the plaintiff has another reasonable alternative route that he or she should have taken but did not or is negligent also and this contributed to the occurrence of the injury.

Charles County, MD Personal Injury Lawyers that Fight for You

Landlords and property owners have a responsibility to their tenants and guests whenever they are on the property. It is important to consult with an experienced Waldorf personal injury attorney if you were injured as a result of a property owner’s negligence. Please call the Law Office of Robert R. Castro at (301) 804-2312 for a confidential consultation.