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Judge Saad holds that "ice is an 'open and obvious' hazard:" fall victims doing his job on hospital roof may not sue for inadequate maintenance

Bruce Bullard fell on ice that formed on a wood plank above the roof at the Oakwood Annapolis Hospital. He filed suit to collect damages.  The Defendant sought summary disposition, which the trial judge denied.  The hospital appealed and Judge Henry Saad wrote the opinion reversing the lower court and throwing out the injury claim. 

Bullard was an electrician under contract to perform maintenance at the hospital.  He asked hospital maintenance to clear the snow so that he could perform monthly maintenance on the roof top generators.  When he arrived on the roof the next morning, he found that snow had been shoveled, but he encountered ice on a wooden plank 5-6' above the roof that he was required to traverse to reach the generator.  He fell, suffering injury. 

Bullard claimed that the hospital maintenance employees were negligent in failing to clear the ice.  He emphasized that whether or not the ice was deemed to be "obvious," the condition was unavoidable given his job responsibilities.  Judge Saad--the insurers' favorite judge--wrote that ice on the planks 5 or 6 feet above the hospital roof was not "a substantial risk of death or severe injury"--especially since Bullard's job duties required him to perform the task monthly and in inclement weather.  (So a hazard becomes less dangerous the more frequently you are exposed?)  The judge also concluded that the condition wasn't "effectively unavoidable" because Bullard "had ample opportunity to avoid [it].  He "chose to inspect the generator "when it was dark and cold."  His fall was "the end result of choices he made that could have been made differently...He could have refused to inspect the generator...he could have waited until daylight...he could have returned inside at any point..." 

Forgive us for wishing that Judge Saad's job required him to inspect machinery five feet above a wintry, icy, inadequately cleared roof.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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