Court Dismisses Premises Liability Lawsuit Against Coffee Shop, Finding Parents Bore the Responsibility to Keep Children Safe

Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a premises liability case presenting an interesting issue for those who have a child who has been injured in a Maryland slip-and-fall accident. The case required the court to determine if a parent’s responsibility to keep their child from playing on and around the heavy metal stanchions precluded the defendant store owner from being held liable. Ultimately, the court concluded that the parents did have a responsibility to protect their children and keep them from playing on the stanchions.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs visited the defendant coffee shop with their two sons. After placing their order, the family went upstairs to use the restroom. As they were exiting the store, the parents heard one of their sons screaming. As they turned around, they saw that a metal stanchion had fallen on their son’s hand.

The young boy’s finger ultimately had to be amputated, and the plaintiffs filed a premises liability lawsuit against the coffee shop, claiming that the shop failed to maintain a safe area for customers and that minor children would not be able to recognize the dangers of the stanchions.

The metal stanchions, which were used as a line-control device, were heavily weighted at the bottom and connected to each other by heavy chains. The evidence presented at trial suggested that the plaintiffs’ children were playing on the stanchions and swinging from the ropes.

The Court’s Analysis

The court began its analysis by noting that, in order to succeed in a premises liability lawsuit, the plaintiff must first establish that the defendant owed him a duty of care. The court explained that it considers the following when determining if a duty is owed:

  • the foreseeability of the injury,
  • the likelihood of injury,
  • the difficulty of guarding against the harm, and
  • the consequences of putting the burden to guard against the hazard on the defendant.

The court also noted that this particular jurisdiction did not follow the attractive nuisance doctrine, meaning that children are owed no greater a duty than adults.

Here, the court determined that any duty that the coffee shop owed to the child was abrogated by the plaintiffs’ presence. The court explained that the metal stanchions were clearly visible, and there was no allegation that they were in any way defective. The court explained that the parents should have been on notice that the stanchions could have presented a hazard, even if they were unaware that the stanchions could cause the exact type of injury their son suffered. As a result, the court affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiffs’ case.

Have You Been Injured on the Property of Another Party?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Washington, D.C. slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated Washington, D.C. personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have decades of experience assisting victims with pursuing the compensation they need and deserve from those responsible for their injuries. We represent clients across Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. in all types of personal injury cases. Call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated Washington, D.C. personal injury lawyer today.

More Blog Posts:

Appellate Court Determines Teacher Was Immune from Liability in Recent Failure-to-Supervise Case, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, February 16, 2018

Court Dismisses Premises Liability Case Due to Plaintiff’s Knowledge of Hazard That Caused His Injury, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, March 2, 2018

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