Slips and Falls … and a Forbidden Clause

Slips and Falls
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Slips and falls are common ways that everyday folks get injured. People slip and fall in grocery stores, gyms, other people’s residences, and common areas. Sometimes we slip and fall where we live, such as an apartment building’s stairs, elevator, lobby or hallway. If you rent an apartment and have a slip and fall in a common area of your apartment building or complex, you have a right to recover.

Let’s say that after your fall, you contact your landlord or management company to open a claim. That’s when you’re told that a clause in your lease may be invoked, which purportedly prevents you from recovering for your injuries. In Maryland, this clause is forbidden.

REAL PROPERTY LAW IN MARYLAND

According to Maryland Real Property §8-105, any clause in a lease that seeks to waive liability on the part of a landlord for negligence in taking care of common areas is illegal and void. Further, under Maryland Real Property §8-208, you can recover whatever damages you suffer, plus attorney’s fees, if the landlord offers a lease with the forbidden clause or tries to enforce that illegal clause.

THE DREADED BANANA PEEL

Recently, one of our clients came in with one of the more “unique” injury cases we’ve dealt with: A banana peel slip. Our client returned home to his apartment and parked his vehicle near the apartment complex’s trash bins. He, and several other tenants, had previously complained about the lack of efficient trash receptacle pickup. In other words, there was a lot of trash the building wasn’t disposing of and tenants had noticed.

When our client emerged from his car, near the dumpster bins, he slipped on a loose banana peel, fell to the ground and fractured his wrist. Injured and frustrated, he contacted his apartment building representative to see if the apartment’s insurance would help cover his medical bills.

The apartment representative was sympathetic but refused to accept any liability regarding the trash overflow. Our client knew he needed someone to fight for him and listen to his situation beyond the first, albeit comical, line of his story, “I slipped on a banana peel.”

Apartment representatives often negate liability by simply claiming, “It’s not our fault,” when there is an unresolved maintenance or safety concern. However, it is sometimes possible, even after an initial “no,” to complain to the higher-up management company of the building. Many of these companies are nationwide or, at the very least, own more than one apartment complex. They respond to correspondence from attorneys with the resources to seriously investigate claims and make sure that tenants are being treated fairly.

The story ends well for our client. After retaining us, he not only got all of his medical bills covered by the apartment’s insurance company, he also walked away with compensation for his pain and suffering. Miguel Palmeiro

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