Articles Tagged with Slip and Fall

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Adam Becker

Under the law of premises liability, landlords and tenants may be held responsible for injuries that occur on their property.  Whether the landlord or the tenant will be held responsible for a particular injury will depend on the facts of the accident and, in some cases, the contract or lease between the landlord and tenant.

Types of accidents that may give rise to liability for a landlord or tenant include those which involve injuries caused by the use of faulty building materials or by building materials that have become deteriorated over time as well as by poor construction or design.  Liability may also attach to a landlord if someone is injured due to tripping and falling over clutter, debris or garbage in common areas of the property.  Another common type of accident that would give rise to a claim against a landlord or tenant would be a slip and fall accident involving ice in a parking lot, walkway or stairway or from moisture on a floor.

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Ryan P. Kelley
(508) 738-2627

A Brief Overview of the Standards for Snow and Ice Cases in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut

As the weather begins its cold turn and the ice starts to claim our windshields, you may find yourself wondering to what extent can a landlord or commercial tenant be liable in the event you slip and fall on snow or ice and injure yourself on their property.  Below is a brief overview of the duties imposed on property owners/commercial tenants in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.  Whether you have a case against a city, town or a state is not addressed in this blog.  Please be advised that cases against cities, towns or states often have strict, statutory prerequisites to the bringing of a claim and you should consult an attorney as soon as possible in the event you have been injured due to snow and ice in an area controlled by a city, town or state.

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Erica Pereira With the recent extreme snowfall in the Northeast, many people have “broken their backs” shoveling and plowing out the streets, driveways, walkways, and stairs to get out of their houses and get to work and school. With the drop in temperatures, that shoveling that we have done could turn our driveways and walkways into a patch of ice, causing a dangerous condition for anyone who comes onto our property. As homeowners in New England we all know of our need to shovel and salt our driveways so our families and friends don’t slip or get injured but sometimes we don’t consider all the other people who come onto our property who also need to be protected.

Under Massachusetts law and specifically the case of Papadopoulos v. Target Corp, 457 Mass.368 (2010) changed the standard of care for snow and ice cases to one of reasonable care. This means that in the event of a snow and ice event, the duty of the homeowner, landowner or premise owner is that they have a duty to take reasonable precautions to protect invited people on their property from unsafe conditions and foreseeable hazards. In other words, if you own a home and it snows, you have a duty to shovel and care for your property (lay down salt or ice melt in the event of ice) in such a way to assure that people who come onto your property will be safe. This could be the mailman, UPS driver, service people, friends or your family. The standard of reasonableness is dependent on each situation and it is your obligation to use good judgment in determining whether your property is safe.

The same standard applies to businesses as well. Businesses are obligated to take reasonable care of their property and premises so that invited business guests and patrons will be protected from unsafe conditions. The general belief is that if it has snowed and your business is open, you better make sure that you have adequately salted your parking lot or walkways and shoveled and plowed the snow so that your guests, patrons and workers will be safe.

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Mode of Operations

Massachusetts has long worked under a traditional constructive notice test on slip and fall cases involving Commercial Premises like a supermarket. That is, does the defendant know of the condition or did they have a reasonable opportunity to know and correct the condition.

In 2007 Massachusetts developed a “Mode of Operations” test to apply to a slip and fall accident at a supermarket self service section. Under the mode of operation the injured party must show that their injury was reasonably foreseeable based upon the supermarket self service mode of operation. If the plaintiff can prove the defendant failed to take reasonable measures involved with the self-service mode of operation than liability may rest with the supermarket.

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by Claudine A. Cloutier

It may seem strange to see “Use Your Cell Phones” on an attorney’s blog when we repeatedly hear about the dangers of distracted driving due to cell phone use.  There’s no doubt that using your phone to text or talk when you should be focusing on the road can distract you and lead to tragic consequences.

But another more positive impact that widespread use of cell phones has had on personal injury claims is that almost everyone is carrying around a camera —- all the time.  More and more frequently an injured person or a witness has the abililty to photograph the accident scene immediately after the incident has occurred.

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by Charlotte E. Glinka, Esq.

Over the last couple of decades, big corporations and insurance companies have been working hard to convince the public that there is a problem in this country with lawsuits, and that those “frivolous” lawsuits are driving up the costs of goods and services, not to mention insurance rates, and driving smaller companies out of business. They’ve spent billions of dollars to sell you this propaganda. And why? Because big corporations and insurance companies would rather try to convince you that lawsuits are bad for the country than pay money on legitimate claims brought by innocent victims who have been injured or killed due to defective products, unsafe business practices or hazardous working conditions. The effect of their efforts is to try to deprive you of your right to access our civil justice system when you have been harmed due to the negligence or carelessness of someone else. And, what’s worse, they want you to let those corporations off the hook when their products or business practices harm or kill people.

According to statistics published by the National Center for State Courts, the number of filings for tort cases (the type of case that involves a wrong committed by an individual or a company that causes injury to someone), have actually declined by 25 percent in the last 10 years. Lawsuits are expensive and time-consuming and can take years to reach a final disposition in the courts. Who would devote the time and energy to pursue such a case, and incur up to tens of thousands of dollars in case expenses, if he or she did not have a legitimate injury? The answer is that no reasonable person would do that and no reasonable attorney would take that case.

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By Jason R. Markle

It’s almost winter again, and here in Massachusetts whether you like it or not, that means snow and ice are coming. With the snowier and icier conditions comes the risk of slip and falls for you and visitors on your property. And up until recently, a property owner’s liability for slip and falls rested on whether the hazard was a natural or unnatural accumulation of snow and ice, a rule rejected by every other state in New England long ago. This out-of-date rule, which dated back to 1883, often rewarded property owners who refused to remove or treat snow and ice on their property. Fortunately, in 2010 the Supreme Judicial Court abolished the distinction between natural and unnatural accumulations of snow and ice. Instead, the Court imposed on snow and ice hazards the same duty of reasonable care that a property owner owes to visitors for all other hazards. Papadopoulos v. Target Corp., 457 Mass. 368 (2010).

In addition to fixing a broken rule, this change also provided some level of clarity to property owners and pedestrians involved in slip and fall accidents. In the past, liability for slip and fall accidents often hinged on whether an icy hazard was caused naturally as a result of precipitation or caused by runoff from a nearby broken gutter. Under the new rule, property owners now owe a duty to use reasonable care in light of all the circumstances. Simply put, the liability of property owners will rest on the reasonableness of their snow removal efforts, or lack thereof. How difficult or costly was the snow removal or treatment? How serious or foreseeable were the risks of harm?

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By Barbara M. Callahan, Esq.

Thanksgiving week is upon us and with every one  making an extra grocery shopping trip or two, it brings to mind the relatively recent update to Massachusetts law with regards to slip and fall accidents in produce and other “self-service” areas of the grocery store.

Almost all grocery stores have self-service areas where customers can sort through and choose their own food items, the produce section being the most obvious example. When produce falls to the floor, it creates an unsafe condition and a slipping hazard. Serious injuries may result from such slip and falls.  Prior to 2007, if a store customer slipped and fell on a food item which had fallen to the floor, that customer would be required to prove that the grocery store either caused the food item to be on the floor or to have actually known that the food item was on the floor or that the food item was on the floor for so long that the grocery store should have been aware of the unsafe condition.  This was a trying, but not impossible, standard for injured customers to meet.

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Metal worker tears rotator cuff while moving equipment

 $550,000 settlementThe 52-year-old plaintiff sheet metal worker was struck and knocked over by a piece of duct work, which had been caught by the wind, and sustained a shoulder injury.The plaintiff continued to work light duty over the next couple of weeks until his shoulder gave way when trying to hand a very light piece of equipment to a coworker. He then sought medical treatment.The plaintiff was diagnosed with a strain and partial tear of his rotator cuff in his right dominant shoulder. He was treated conservatively, but developed a chronic pain problem which was treated by a variety of medications. He subsequently developed anxiety and depression, as well as dependency on the prescribed medications.Approximately one year following the accident, the plaintiff lost his balance and was not able to catch himself, due to his shoulder injury, and sustained an injury to his knee which required surgery.Due to his pain, anxiety, depression and the many medications that were required to control his conditions, the plaintiff’s wife became his caregiver.Although the plaintiff had received a lump sum workers’ compensation payment, he remained on significant medications, which were paid by the workers’ compensation carrier.After mediation, the plaintiffs’ claims were settled for a combined total of $550,000 with a waiver of any workers’ compensation lien rights the carrier may have had.Half of the settlement — $275,000 — was allocated to the loss of consortium claim and the remaining half was allocated to the plaintiff’s primary claim.The workers’ compensation carrier preserved its rights to offset future medical payments for the plaintiff under Hunter v. Midwest Coast Transportation, Inc., 400 Mass. 779 (1987).Type of action: Negligence & tortInjuries alleged: Strain and partial tear of rotator cuff, chronic pain syndrome, depression, anxietyName of case: WithheldCourt/case #: WithheldTried before judge or jury: N/A (mediated)Amount of settlement: $550,000Date: March 20, 2005Attorneys: Claudine A. Cloutier and Mark D. Warcup, Keches & Mallen, Taunton (for the plaintiff)

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Boy suffocates after falling into concrete mixer; Sand piles concealed opening to funnel chute – $2.5 million settlement

A 9-year-old boy was killed at a large industrial site when he fell through a grate hidden beneath a sand hill on which he and a friend were playing.

The site, which was located next to a residential neighborhood, stored materials for concrete mixing and contained large sand piles in open areas. The mounds appeared to be resting on level ground; however, they actually lay on top of metal grates covering a chute that allowed sand to drop to a lower level into a funnel, which controlled the sand flow in the mixing process.

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