Tragic accidents that result in the death of persons happen all too regularly in Massachusetts. Often, such accidents are the result of harmful conditions that the deceased party experienced on someone else’s property. However, just because a hazardous condition existed near where a person died does not prove that the condition caused the fatal damage. A Massachusetts court recently reviewed what evidence is required to prove causation in negligence claims in a case involving a tragic fall down a flight of stairs. If you or a loved one has died as a result of someone else’s negligence, you should consult with an experienced Massachusetts personal injury lawyer about your legal options.
The Death of the Decedent
The plaintiff’s deceased allegedly attended a party at the defendant’s residence. He fell down the stairs into the partially finished basement at one point during the evening. He sustained serious brain damage and was unable to communicate as a result of his accident, which was witnessed by no one. He passed away a week later. The plaintiff filed a wrongful death action against the defendant, claiming the decedent died as a result of the defendant’s negligent failure to keep the steps in good repair. The defendant moved for summary judgment, claiming that the plaintiff had failed to establish causation. The plaintiff appealed after the court agreed and granted the defendant’s request.
Causation in Negligence Cases
A plaintiff alleging negligence has to prove that the defendant breached the obligation to exercise reasonable care, that the plaintiff suffered an actual loss, and that the loss was caused by the defendant’s breach, according to Massachusetts law. The plaintiff’s burden of proof includes proving causation. However, in the case at hand, the plaintiff’s only proof that the stairs were defective and that the deficiency caused the decedent’s fall was an unverified expert opinion letter. Continue reading