Articles Posted in Premises Liability

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

Broadly speaking, property owners have a responsibility to ensure that people who lawfully enter their buildings do not encounter dangerous conditions. As such, if they neglect to do so and people suffer injuries as a result, they may be deemed for damages in a civil proceeding. The duty to protect invitees from harm does not carry over to the property’s insurers, however, as indicated in a recent judgement set forth in a Massachusetts premises liability case. If you were hurt in an accident that happened on property owned by another party, you may be entitled to compensation, and you should speak with a Massachusetts personal injury lawyer promptly.

The Injuries Suffered by the Plaintiff

It is reported that the plaintiff worked as a plumber. While fixing a boiler at a residence, he slipped into a sump pit in the basement that was filled with scalding water. When the sump was installed in 2001, it was connected to the boiler’s drain valves, permitting water to drain from the boiler. Following his injury, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit, alleging claims against the the insurance and reinsurance companies that provided coverage for the premises, as well as the insurance adjuster who performed a boiler check in 2015.

People who suffer the loss of a loved one often expect they will have to contend with many things, such as economic losses, grief, and other strong emotions. They rarely anticipate that they will suffer harm during the process of saying goodbye to their loved ones, however. Harmful accidents can occur in a graveyard, though, and if they are caused by negligence, the party that owns the cemetery may be held accountable. Proving liability is not always an easy task, though. Recently, a Massachusetts court explained what evidence a person injured in a trip and fall accident must produce to recover damages in a case arising out of a fall in a cemetery. If you were hurt in a fall, it is in your best interest to speak to a seasoned Massachusetts personal injury attorney to discuss your potential claims.

The Plaintiff’s Injuries

Reportedly, the plaintiff attended a funeral service at the defendant’s cemetery. After the service was over, he began to walk over gravestones towards his car. When he was walking, he encountered a soft area, and his foot sunk into the ground, creating a hole that caused him to fall and sustain injuries to his leg and ankle. He subsequently filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, alleging its negligent maintenance of the property caused the dangerous condition that led to his harm. The defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing the plaintiff failed to prove the elements of negligence. The court agreed and dismissed the plaintiff’s claims.

Establishing Liability for a Slip and Fall Accident

Under Massachusetts law, property owners may be held liable for harm suffered by people who legally enter their premises, but only under certain circumstances. Specifically, an injured party must show that the owner knew or should have known that a dangerous condition that posed a risk of harm to invitees existed and that the invitees would not discover the condition or realize the danger and take the actions needed to protect themselves.
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All falls can potentially cause harm but falls from roofs, and other high places typically cause critical injuries. Despite the severity of injuries suffered by people that fall from substantial heights, they can generally only recover damages if they can prove their falls were caused by another party’s carelessness. This requires, in part, proof of the applicable standard of care. As demonstrated in a recent Massachusetts ruling, the courts will only consider relevant evidence in determining what standard applies in fall cases. If you sustained injuries in a fall, you should meet with a trusted Massachusetts personal injury attorney to evaluate what damages you may be owed.

The Plaintiff’s Harm

It is alleged that the plaintiff worked for a roofing company the defendant hired to remove snow from the roof of one of its properties. While on the job, the plaintiff fell from the roof. He suffered significant injuries in the fall and subsequently filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging its negligence led to his fall and ensuing injuries.

Reportedly, before the trial, the plaintiff moved in limine for the court to admit Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations and publications into evidence. The court denied the motion. The jury found in favor of the defendant, deeming the defendant thirty percent liable and the plaintiff seventy percent liable for the fall. The plaintiff appealed, arguing that the court abused its discretion in denying his motion in limine.

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In the recent case of Pena v. Pena, a Massachusetts trial court considered the liability of a property owner for injuries that a visitor sustains due to the acts of a third party. The case provides an important example to litigants about the importance of following procedural rules and retaining an experienced trial lawyer.

The facts of the case are as follows. The defendant operated a bar in the town of Roxbury, Massachusetts. The plaintiffs, two men, were patronizing the bar one evening when they were both stabbed by another bar patron. In their complaint, the plaintiffs alleged that the bar owner’s negligence was the direct cause of their injuries. The defendants failed to timely respond to the complaint, and the trial court entered a default judgment against them. During the hearing, the court heard testimony about the incident and the nature and extent of the plaintiffs’ injuries. The trial court entered a judgment in favor of one of the plaintiffs totaling $70,000 and in the amount of $500 for the other plaintiff.

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In the recent case of Peters v. Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc., the plaintiff was a deliveryman who alleged that he suffered severe injuries when he tripped on a pothole and fell while making a delivery at the defendant’s grocery store location. In his complaint, the plaintiff alleged a cause of action for negligence, asserting a premises liability theory. According to Massachusetts law, property owners have a duty to keep their property in good repair and to fix any known dangerous conditions in a reasonable manner. If the landowner is not able to repair the condition, he or she must take steps to warn guests about the potential danger.

At the close of trial on the matter, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant. The plaintiff appealed, contending that the trial court erred when it provided five specific jury instructions before the jury began its deliberations.

On appeal to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Appeals Court, the court first noted that during the trial court’s instruction regarding the property owner’s duty to the deliveryman and regarding whether the condition on which he allegedly tripped was open and obvious, the trial court erred. The instruction provided that “a person in control of the premises is not required to supply a place of maximum safety, but only one which would be safe to a person who exercises such care as the circumstances would reasonably indicate.” According to the court, the instruction conflated the jury’s requirement to consider the landowner’s duty to the deliveryman with its consideration of whether the plaintiff acted in a contributorily negligent manner.

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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.

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In the recent case of Belanger v. Boys in Berries, LLC, the plaintiff was patronizing a farm store owned by one of the defendants and insured by the other defendant when he tripped over a pallet on the store’s floor and fell. The plaintiff alleged in his complaint that he suffered injuries to his shoulder and hip, including painful fractures

All property owners, including shopkeepers, have a duty to keep their premises in safe, good working condition, to repair any dangerous or unsafe conditions, and to provide warnings to consumers about any known dangerous conditions that the shopkeeper has not fixed or is not able to fix. When it comes to stores that sell food, spilled food and slippery surfaces are a common issue. While there are a variety of general requirements that apply to food store owners, the level of maintenance, upkeep, and warnings that the shopkeeper must maintain is determined according to a reasonableness standard.

The defendants moved for summary judgment, which is a motion that asks a court to make a conclusive ruling on a case. In a motion for summary judgment, the moving party contends that there are no issues of material fact requiring a jury’s determination and that the court can decide the parties’ dispute as a matter of law. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiff appealed.

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Massachusetts law allows a business guest, invitee, or visitor to sue a property owner for injuries that he or she sustains as a result of the property owner’s failure to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition. Property owners must also make reasonable repairs to their premises while providing visitors with warnings about any dangerous conditions of which they knew or should have known. This seems like a straightforward standard, but it can get complicated when it comes to determining whether a property owner can be held liable for the type of injury that resulted.

In Fleming v. A Plus Auto Body, Inc., the plaintiff sued an auto body repair shop for injuries she sustained when she slipped and fell on a patch of ice located on the repair shop’s property and broke her leg. The defendant moved for summary judgment, and the trial court granted the motion.

On appeal, the Massachusetts Appeals Court reversed the lower court’s ruling. First, the intermediate court stated that the plaintiff was on her way to pick up her vehicle from the repair shop. The plaintiff was exiting her rental car, which was parked on Walnut Street, when she slipped on the ice. The defendant argued that it did not own Walnut Street and therefore could not be held liable for the injuries the plaintiff sustained on the public way in front of its premises. The defendant also contended that there was no evidence in the record suggesting that it created the dangerous condition on the public sidewalk.

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In Amaral v. Seekonk Grand Prix Corp., a woman suffered injuries while observing her children operate go-carts at the defendant’s go-cart facility in Massachusetts. The injuries occurred when one of the drivers on the course lost control of the go-cart in which he or she was riding, and it crashed through the fence where the woman was standing. Although the woman was required to purchase tickets for her children to use the go-cart facility, she did not have to buy a ticket in order to observe her children from behind the fence.

Shortly after the accident, the woman filed a negligence action against the owner of the go-cart facility, requesting compensation for her physical injuries, which included a painful pulmonary embolism that resulted from a blood clot that formed in the woman’s leg.

In response to the complaint, the defendant filed a motion indicating that summary judgment was appropriate according to the recreational use doctrine. Pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws C. 21 Section 17C, a property owner that allows the general public to use its land for recreational activities without imposing a fee or charge for the use cannot be held liable for any injuries that an individual sustains during his or her time on the property. An exception to this statute is when the property owner engages in reckless, wanton, or willful conduct, and that conduct results in the victim’s injury.

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