Harm and Hospitality

The best hosts and hostesses know how to make guests feel welcome and comfortable in their homes. But the smartest entertainers pay equal attention to their legal obligations to their invited guests — because nothing can ruin a friendly visit, or a friendship, like an accident that could have been avoided.

Under Maryland premises liability law, homeowners have a legal duty to warn visitors of any dangerous condition on the premises that they are aware of, or reasonably should be aware of. Unlike business establishments, which are held to a higher expectation of protection of visitors, homeowners are not likely to hang Watch Your Step signs on their stairways or place yellow Wet Floor markers around their kitchen sink. But they can be held liable if they fail to protect their guests by pointing out known hazards on the property, such as:

  • An uneven or icy walkway
  • Crumbling or unstable stairs
  • Construction areas that are not roped off
  • An unfenced swimming pool

If you are injured at the home of a friend or family member, you may be hesitant to jeopardize the relationship by filing a complaint. Bear in mind, however, that in most cases it is the homeowner’s insurance company, not the homeowner, who pays your damages (as long as the injury was not inflicted intentionally). Backed up by homeowner’s insurance, your loved one may not take your personal injury claim quite so personally.

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