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Thomas v. Panco Management of Md., LLC

August 5, 2020

Maryland has recently seen a drastic overhaul of its premises liability law involving injuries on snow and ice.  One Court of Appeals decision responsible for this new direction of case law is Thomas v. Panco Management.  The case involved a woman’s claim for injuries as a result of a slip and fall in the parking lot of her apartment complex.  The Court determined that the evidence in the record could allow both the inference that the plaintiff had knowledge about the icy state of the parking lot and that plaintiff did not have such knowledge.  Given the existence of a dispute of fact, the Court of Appeals held that to find that the plaintiff assumed the risk as a matter of law was improper.  

This decision overrules Allen v. Marriott Worldwide Corp., 183 Md. App. 460, 961 A.2d 1141 (2008), which held that a person assumes the risk as a matter of law if he chooses to traverse an area that, given the visible wintry conditions, is likely to be icy, even if the ice that causes the fall is not visible (i.e. “black ice”).  The Court of Appeals emphasized that it was error to expand the knowledge prong of the assumption of the risk test to permit the judge to impute knowledge under circumstances where the risk of danger may not have been fully known to and understood by the plaintiff.  As a result, the Court concluded that unless there is undisputed evidence that a plaintiff was aware of the danger, the question of whether a plaintiff assumed the risk of the injury should be left to the jury.