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Elmar Gardens Inc. v. Odell

Decided: January 25, 1962.

ELMAR GARDENS, INC.
v.
ODELL



Appeal from the Circuit Court for Prince George's County; Bowie, J.

Brune, C.J., and Henderson, Hammond, Horney and Marbury, JJ. Marbury, J., delivered the opinion of the Court.

Marbury

This is an appeal from a judgment in favor of the appellee entered upon a jury's verdict for damages in the amount of $3500. in a case where the appellee put his hand through a pane of glass in a door which was at the entrance to an apartment house in which he was a tenant.

At the close of the appellee's case the appellant moved for a directed verdict. This motion was denied by the court, whereupon the appellant rested its case and chose not to offer evidence.

Appellant is a corporation which owns a number of apartment buildings in Hyattsville, Prince George's County, Maryland. Each building contains six apartments, two on each floor. Appellee, his wife, and child lived on the second floor

of the building involved for approximately a year preceding the accident.

The door to the building as described by the appellee's testimony and shown by the photographs admitted in evidence, is wooden with plywood panels at the bottom and two sets of three glass panes parallel to each other at the top, a metal push plate is located at the edge of the door farthest from the hinge side, and on top of the door there is a spring-air type device which causes the door to close automatically after being opened. The door opens outward toward the street.

On May 23, 1959, appellee, his wife, and six year old son were returning to the apartment after shopping at a local food store. Appellee, who was the only person who testified as to what happened, stated that he entered the apartment building from the street carrying some groceries in both arms, opened the door to the common hallway "just as far as it would go" and placed his foot against it to keep it from closing on his son who was following behind him, carrying two cartons of soda pop. Appellee then set his groceries down on a radiator which was on the inside of the hallway to the hinge side of the door, and moved his foot causing the door to close. While he did this it became obvious to him that the door was going to close upon his son so that he stuck his hand out to the hinge side of the door against the glass pane of the door in order to stop it. The door stopped temporarily for his son, "perhaps a fraction of a second." The son got out of the way, but the glass quivered in the appellee's hand and then broke, causing the severing of the radial artery of his right hand.

Appellee further testified that there was nothing wrong with the door or its automatic closing device, and that he had entered and left by that door twice a day for approximately a year. He claimed that the glass in the door was thin, but he did not describe how thin; nor did he describe what, if any, building regulations were violated by this particular glass; nor what, if any, standards there were as to what thickness the glass should be. He also claimed that the particular pane of glass was not installed securely in that it was secured to the door frame by wooden strips which allowed it to quiver

when touched by his hand. He said that the door was heavy in comparison with a house door. He said that the glass in the door was frequently broken by children throwing objects at it. In fact the glass by which he cut himself was broken before and had not been replaced for a long period of time. As a matter of fact, according to him, the glass in question was not replaced until four days before the accident, and apparently as a result of his complaint to the management. He knew the glass pane immediately to the right of the glass by which he was injured was cracked. The reason he advanced for his failure to use the metal push plate on the door was that the door was closing on his son too rapidly and he had insufficient time to reach and place his hand on the plate.

As we see it the controlling question for our decision in this case is whether the trial court erred in denying the appellant's motion for directed ...


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