While visiting our home state of Maryland in June, my husband and I were headed across the plaza near the USS Constellation in the Inner Harbor and had just checked the water taxi schedule. In a split second, I was on the ground with extreme pain radiating from my left foot and my right shoulder. One of the Inner Harbor "ambassadors" arrived to see what the issue was. At this point, I was unable to speak and my still stunned husband told him that I had fallen. As the ambassador began writing up the incident report he said, "People fall here all the time. We've tried to get the city to do something, but they haven't." This is not what you want to hear while waiting for EMS.
I was treated at Mercy Hospital which, mercifully, has a wonderful staff for a sprained foot and a broken shoulder. After I was safely back at the hotel, my husband returned to the harbor plaza to investigate the area. There are expanses of brick pavers and other materials creating a design across the plaza from the water to the retail area. Unfortunately, some of those "designs" have step downs that cannot be seen from various angles creating a definite hazard for falling.
When I returned to my home in South Carolina, I was in touch with the Waterfront Partnership group and they assured me that they would look into this incident and get back to me. Five weeks and several emails and phone calls later, I am still waiting. In the meantime, I consulted two very reputable Maryland lawyers and discovered that there is no real recourse if you have an accident like this in Maryland. Unlike 46 other states that have "comparative negligence," Maryland is one of four that has "contributory negligence" which, as one of my friends offered, means, "Oh, so if you have legs and are walking then you contributed to your fall?"
That about sums it up. If you have an accident in Maryland, you basically have no true legal remedy and there is little or no incentive for a city or other entity — discounting the moral and ethical obligation — to correct potentially dangerous situations. My goal in seeking legal action was to get the hazard eliminated so that no one else ended up on the ground. My own injury is serious, but I shudder to think if I had been carrying a child in my arms. So be aware and be warned fellow travelers and citizens of Maryland, my Maryland. As for this former Marylander and lover of crab cakes, this trip will be my last "trip" to my home state.
Wanda Meade, Greenville, S.C.
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