Massachusetts Court Discusses Causation in Negligence Cases

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.

The court ruled that this was inadequate evidence, noting that an opinion that is neither an affidavit nor sworn to under penalty of perjury is insufficient to defeat a Motion for Summary Judgment. The court went on to say that even if it took the opinion letter into account, it still couldn’t prove causation. The court emphasized that a plaintiff must prove that there was a probability or greater chance that the injury sustained was caused by the defendant rather than any other source in order for the issue of causation to be submitted to the fact finder.

While an expert’s viewpoint may be able to do so, it must be supported by facts. However, there are no facts of record in this case about the cause of the decedent’s fall. Based on the foregoing, the court determined that there was insufficient evidence to establish causation and upheld the plaintiff’s claims being dismissed.

Consult with a Reputable Massachusetts Personal Injury Lawyer

People are frequently injured as a result of dangerous circumstances found on poorly maintained properties, and their injuries can be fatal in some cases. If you lost a loved one or suffered injuries due to a dangerous condition on another person’s property, Attorney John S. Moffa of the Law Offices of John S. Moffa can advise you of your rights and aid you in seeking the full amount of damages recoverable under the law. You can reach Mr. Moffa through the online form or by calling 508-362-5554 to set up a meeting.


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