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Ocean City faces premises liability lawsuit

Maryland is fortunate to have many ocean-side resorts and boardwalks. These attractions are enjoyed by both residents and tourists alike. However, it is important for cities to keep their sidewalks and streets in good repair, so that they are safe for all people.

The town of Ocean City, Maryland, recently moved to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a woman in August against the city after she fell out of her wheelchair in 2012 while on the boardwalk.

According to the woman's suit, she was visiting Ocean City while on vacation. Her daughter was pushing the victim in her wheelchair down the boardwalk when her wheelchair hit a rubber mat on the street corner. This caused the woman's wheel chair to suddenly stop, throwing the woman from the chair. The mats serve as warning mats on corners that are meant to be handicap-accessible. The woman suffered a broken arm in the incident.

The woman filed a suit claiming negligence, among other allegations. According to the lawsuit, Ocean City has the duty to maintain their sidewalks in a way that is safe for handicapped invitees. The mat at issue was allegedly worn down and torn, and no longer provided a flat surface. The suit alleges that the city should have been aware of the defect, and that it is their responsibility to keep their premises safe. The woman is seeking compensation in the amount of $750,000.

In response, the city filed a motion to dismiss the suit. According to the city, the rubber warning mats were installed by the State Highway Administration, although the city does admit to owning the resort sidewalks. They also state that the road where the incident occurred was in fact a state highway.

It remains to be seen what the outcome of this lawsuit will be. However, when it comes to premises liability, it is important for property owners to make sure they are aware of the conditions on their property, and that they either repair unsafe conditions or at the very least post warnings. In some cases, the failure to take these steps could lead to a lawsuit if another person is injured on the premises. Tourists in Maryland should not have their vacations ruined and their lives turned upside down by what was otherwise a preventable accident.

Source: The Dispatch, "OC Seeks Wheelchair Suit Dismissal," Sept. 19, 2014

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