Massachusetts Appellate Court Upholds Verdict for Plaintiffs in Premises Liability Stabbing Case

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.

On appeal, the defendants alleged that the lower court lacked sufficient evidence in the record to support the amount of compensation awarded. The appellate court rejected this claim, noting that the defendant failed to provide a copy of the transcript from the evidentiary hearing. Since the court was unable to review the evidence before the lower court, it assumed that the judge did not commit a reversible error.

Procedural rules are just as important in a lawsuit as proving the substantive aspects of your claim. There are a number of steps a party must take in order to preserve an issue for review on appeal. One of the most critical steps is creating a record for the trial court to review.

When it came to the plaintiffs’ underlying claim, the trial court applied Massachusetts premises liability law. Most people think of premises liability as covering things like slip and fall cases, but these lawsuits can also provide compensation for injuries or deaths caused by the foreseeable criminal actions of another person or entity on an owner’s property. According to Massachusetts law, a property owner must protect visitors and guests from foreseeable criminal acts by third parties.

A common example involves an apartment complex. If a landlord knew or had reason to know that a neighborhood had a high rate of burglary or other crimes and failed to provide adequate protections, the landlord can be held liable in the event that a burglary or other criminal act occurs. Some examples of appropriate security measures include surveillance cameras, security guards, bars across the windows, and multi-part door locking mechanisms.

If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident, you may be entitled to compensation. At the Law Offices of John S. Moffa, our skilled premises liability lawyers have handled numerous matters and are confident in the courtroom. We offer a free consultation to help you learn about the legal remedies that may be available to you, so call us at 1-800-446-4485 or contact us online to set up your appointment.

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