Under Maryland law, when you go onto someone else’s property, you are owed a duty to reasonably protect your safety. For instance, any hazards that could cause a slip-and-fall accident that the owner knows about or should reasonably know about, must be fixed and removed.
Burlington Coat Factory was successful recently in defeating a woman’s personal injury lawsuit against the retailer because she couldn’t prove that the store knew about the unsafe condition that caused the accident. The court said that a statement she overheard from a man believed to be a store employee that “they” knew about the unsafe condition couldn’t be introduced as evidence because the woman could not prove that the man who made the statement worked for the store.
The case began with a slip and fall at a Burlington Coat Factory store in Greenbelt, Maryland. Erica Wright said was injured when she tripped and fell at the store in 2012. Mrs. Wright said that her flip-flop sandal became caught on an unsecured strip of rubber – the transition strip or border strip – which separated a carpeted section of the store from an uncarpeted aisle between departments. Wright said the transition strip “was damaged and detached from the ground, creating a dangerous condition for store patrons” and that Burlington Coat had “actual or constructive knowledge of the damaged transition strip in its store.”
Slips, trips, and falls are the leading cause of both customer and employee injuries in the retail industry and are estimated to cost the industry more than $20 billion a year.
Wright filed a premises liability action in the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County. During discovery, Wright said she was helped off the floor by another customer but also heard a store employee say: “They knew about this. I’m not getting fired for this.” Wright’s husband also heard the remark. Wright said the statement meant that Burlington knew about the unsafe condition, which is a necessary element of her claim.
However, Burlington asked the court to exclude the statement as hearsay and said that if the court granted the motion, then there was no dispute as to whether Burlington had notice of the condition and that the retailer was entitled to judgment. Burlington also argued that, without the statement, Burlington was unable to produce evidence from which a jury could reasonably find that it had actual or constructive notice of the unsecured transition strip that caused Wright’s fall.
The trial court decided to exclude the statement, declaring that an “unidentified person by nature is not reliable or credible or trustworthy.” Then the court said that, without the hearsay statement, Wright was unable to prove that Burlington had notice of the loose transition strip. The court ruled for Burlington and Wright appealed. The appeals court upheld the trial court’s decision.
A Baltimore personal injury lawyer can help you with your slip and fall claim. An experienced Maryland premises liability attorney can go over the facts of your case to help you to determine whether you have a case. The consultation is free. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas J. Maronick have experience handling Maryland personal injury settlements and lawsuits. You can contact Thomas Maronick on his cellphone at 202.288.0167, the law office at 410.934.3007 or via our website for a free consultation.