In the recent case of Bowers v. P. Wile’s, Inc., the plaintiff alleged that she was injured at a garden store owned by the defendant in the Cape Cod region. According to her complaint, the plaintiff was at the store traversing a pathway in the parking lot that was roughly six feet wide. Although the pathway was paved, the areas adjacent to the pathway were covered with gravel stones. In the rock and masonry industries, the types of rocks that were used are referred to as river stones. The store also often displayed merchandise along this pathway in close proximity to the stones.
The plaintiff stated that she tripped on one of these stones while walking across the pathway and that it caused her to fall. According to her testimony, she did not see the river stone before she stepped on it. Other testimony offered at trial suggested that the store had maintained this pathway with adjacent gravel areas for over 10 years and that the store operator had not been notified of any other trip and fall accidents involving the stones on the pathway.
Despite this, the store did have some notice that from time to time the river stones would become dislodged from the areas adjacent to the pathway and wind up on its surface. One of the responsibilities for store employees was to inspect the path to ensure that it was free of any stones.
The store moved for summary judgment, and the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts granted the motion. According to the judge, the defendant was correct in arguing that under Massachusetts law a property owner cannot be held liable when a foreign object, i.e., the river stone, finds its way onto the defendant’s property and results in an injury unless the property owner had actual or constructive notice that the foreign object existed in the potentially injury-causing location. The plaintiff contended that she had satisfied this requirement. According to her, the fact that the store required employees to check the pathway for any misplaced river stones was sufficient evidence that the property owner had actual knowledge of their potential danger.
Alternatively, the plaintiff argued that under the mode of operation theory, the fact that the plaintiff conducted its business in such a fashion was sufficient to prove that the defendant knew or should have known about the misplaced river stones.
If you have suffered injuries in a slip and fall case, you may be entitled to compensation. At the Law Offices of John S. Moffa, we have handled a wide variety of premises liability cases, including slip and falls. We understand the complexities of these cases and can help you gather the evidence you need to assert your rights against a careless property owner. Our team of dedicated and knowledgeable legal professionals can also help you negotiate with insurance companies, which don’t always have your best interests in mind. Proudly serving accident victims throughout Massachusetts, we offer a free consultation to help you understand the legal system and the types of compensation that may be available to you. Call us now at 1-800-446-4485 or contact us online to set up your appointment.