This is an excerpt from a slip and fall case from the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland. This premises liability excerpt is provided by RI and Ma slip and fall attorney, David Slepkow
GIANT OF MARYLAND, L.L.C.
871 A.2d 627 (2005)
161 Md. App. 620
No. 161, September Term, 2004.
“At the time of the accident, Maans was Giant’s invitee. “It is the law in Maryland … that the proprietor of a store owes a duty to … [an invitee] to exercise ordinary care to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition and will be liable for injuries sustained in consequence of a failure to do so.” Rawls v. Hochschild, Kohn & Co., 207 Md. 113, 117, 113 A.2d 405 (1955).
The customer is entitled to assume that the proprietor will exercise reasonable care to ascertain the condition of the premises, and if he discovers any unsafe condition he will either take such action as will correct the condition and make it reasonably safe or give a warning of the unsafe condition.
Id. at 117-18, 113 A.2d 405 (citations omitted). “The duties of a business invitor thus include the obligation to warn invitees of known hidden dangers, a duty to inspect, and a duty to take reasonable precautions against foreseeable dangers.” Tennant v. Shoppers Food Warehouse Md. Corp., 115 Md.App. 381, 388, 693 A.2d 370 (1997).
A store operator, such as Giant, is not the insurer of the invitee’s safety. Moulden v. Greenbelt Consumer Servs., Inc., 239 Md. 229, 232, 210 A.2d 724 (1965). In addition, “the burden is upon the customer to show that the proprietor created the dangerous condition or had actual or constructive knowledge of its existence” prior to the invitee’s injury. Lexington Mkt. Auth. v. Zappala, 233 Md. 444, 446, 197 A.2d 147 (1964) (citations omitted); see also Moulden, 239 Md. at 232, 210 A.2d 724, and Tennant, 115 Md.App. at 389, 693 A.2d 370.
Approximately seventy years ago, the Court of Appeals, in Moore v. American Stores Co., 169 Md. 541, 550-51, 182 A. 436 (1936), spelled out in detail the duty that the operator of a grocery store owes to its patron. The grocery store owner/operator has
632*632 a duty to exercise reasonable and ordinary care to see that its premises were in such a condition that its customers might safely use them while visiting the store upon its invitation to buy its wares…. In the performance of that duty it [is] required to exercise reasonable care to discover conditions which, if known to it, it should have realized involved an unreasonable risk to such patrons…. Any breach of that duty resulting in injury to one lawfully on its premises as an invitee would constitute negligence, if, but only if, it knew, or by the exercise of reasonable care could have discovered, the conditions which created the peril, and had no reason to believe that its invitees would realize the risk involved therein.
Id. (citations omitted) (emphasis added).
Recently, in Deering Woods, supra, 377 Md. at 264, 833 A.2d 17, the Court of Appeals quoted Moore, supra, with approval, as follows:
It is not necessary that there be proof that the invit[o]r had actual knowledge of the conditions creating the peril; it is enough if it appear that it could have discovered them by the exercise of ordinary care, so that, if it is shown that the conditions have existed for a time sufficient to permit one, under a duty to know of them, to discover them, had he exercised reasonable care, his failure to discover them may in itself be evidence of negligence sufficient to charge him with knowledge of them.
Id. (emphasis added).
In Rehn v. Westfield Am., 153 Md.App. 586, 593, 837 A.2d 981 (2003), Judge Adkins, for this Court, succinctly summarized the evidence that a customer must put forward in a slip-and-fall case against the invitor:
The evidence must show not only that a dangerous condition existed, but also that the proprietor “had actual or constructive knowledge of it, and that that knowledge was gained in sufficient time to give the owner the opportunity to remove it or to warn the invitee.” Keene v. Arlan’s Dep’t Store of Baltimore, Inc., 35 Md.App. 250, 256, 370 A.2d 124 (1977). Whether there has been sufficient time for a business proprietor to discover, cure, or clean up a dangerous condition depends on the circumstances surrounding the fall. See Deering Woods Condo. Ass’n v. Spoon, 377 Md. 250, 833 A.2d 17 (2003). “`What will amount to sufficient time depends upon the circumstances of the particular case, and involves consideration of the nature of the danger, the number of persons likely to be affected by it, the diligence required to discover or prevent it, opportunities and means of knowledge, the foresight which a person of ordinary care and prudence would be expected to exercise under the circumstances, and the foreseeable consequences of the conditions.'” Id. (quoting Moore v. Am. Stores Co., 169 Md. 541, 551, 182 A. 436 (1936)).”
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