Articles Posted in Trip and fall

pothole in groundIn 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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large parking lotIn 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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pallet with boxesIn 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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