Black Ice By Lonnie Greenblatt on January 21, 2022

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An argument can be made that Maryland is not too lenient to personal injury victims. It is one of few states in the United States barring any recovery to plaintiffs in a personal injury action under the doctrine of ‘contributory negligence’. Basically, in any accident caused largely by the negligence of another party, the victim of the accident is barred recovery if the tortfeasor can show that the victim of the accident ‘contributed’ to the accident in any way (at fault for 1 % is enough) to preclude the victim’s way to recovery.

Here comes another tricky doctrine to bar recovery to personal injury victims in winter times – assumption of risk when slipping and falling on what is called black ice. The reasoning behind this doctrine is that victims of slip and fall accidents should have known about the possibility of a black ice and have ‘assumed the risk’ of such a possibility if they went out on such a weather and slipped and fell on black ice injuring themselves. In one case in 2008, Court of Special Appeals of Maryland upheld the decision denying recovery to a slip and fall accident victim reasoning that when determining whether the victim of the accident assumed the risk of slipping and falling on ice, the Court should not look to whether the victim of the accident had the actual knowledge of the fact that there was ice and risk of slipping on ice but an "appreciation of the reasonable likelihood that, under the weather conditions and other circumstances, ice might well be present." Allen v. Marriott, 961 A.2d 1141, 183 Md. App. 460 (Md. App. 2008). The Court then reasoned, that the assumed risk is not of stepping on ice per se but that of stepping onto an unknown surface with an awareness that it might well be icy..." Id.

Luckily, in 2011, Court of Appeals of Maryland revisited the conclusions of Allen v. Marriott and concluded that the Court in that case incorrectly altered the standard for establishing knowledge of the risk as a matter of law and invaded the province of the jury by allowing courts to make factual determinations based on the “reasonable likelihood” that a risk of ice exists. Poole v. Coakley & Williams Constr., Inc., 423 Md. 91, 31 A.3d 212 (Md. 2011). The Court then changed back the standard of proving an assumption of risk for slip and fall on black ice to showing that "plaintiff had full, actual, and subjective knowledge of the risk or that a person of normal intelligence in the position of the plaintiff must have understood the danger.” Poole v. Coakley & Williams Constr., Inc., 423 Md. 91, 31 A.3d 212 (Md. 2011).

From the accident victims’ point of view, it is a better standard than the one which was established by the Court in 2008, but still a shaky ground when you are trying to prove a liability to obtain compensation for your injuries. Obtaining recovery for slip and fall cases on black ice in Maryland still allows a powerful “assumption of risk” defense which can kill the entire claim.

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Gorkhmaz M. Asgarov, Esq

is an Attorney & Counselor at Law with Greenblatt & Veliev, LLC, which is a litigation law firm based in Rockville, Maryland that provides services to individuals for personal injury, workers’ compensation, and criminal and traffic defense cases.[/et_pb_text][et_pb_divider color="#999" _builder_version="4.7.4" _module_preset="default" global_colors_info="{}"][/et_pb_divider][et_pb_text _builder_version="4.7.4" _module_preset="default" global_colors_info="{}"]The information contained in this article is general in nature and is not offered as legal advice for any particular situation. The opinions and conclusions in this blog post are solely those of the author. Any links provided by the author in this article are for informational purposes only and by doing so, the author does not adopt or incorporate their contents.[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section][et_pb_section fb_built="1" _builder_version="4.7.7" _module_preset="default" global_colors_info="{}"][et_pb_row _builder_version="4.7.7" _module_preset="default" global_colors_info="{}"][et_pb_column type="4_4" _builder_version="4.7.7" _module_preset="default" global_colors_info="{}"][et_pb_text admin_label="Related posts" _builder_version="4.7.7" _module_preset="default" header_3_font_size="25px" border_width_bottom="3px" border_color_bottom="#f4881f" global_colors_info="{}"]

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