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Massachusetts Appeals Court Affirms Defense Verdict in Premises Liability Case Against Grocery Store – Peters v. Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc.

delivery truck

Generally speaking, businesses and other landowners have a duty to maintain their premises and warn visitors of known dangerous conditions. A failure to do so can result in an award of monetary damages to a person who is hurt due to the business owner’s breach of duty.

Of course, such cases are often highly contested, with the defendant arguing that the plaintiff – rather than the business owner – was at fault in the accident. When the parties cannot agree on a reasonable settlement, it is up to a jury to decide who was at fault and, if the defendant is found liable, the amount of damages to which the plaintiff is entitled.

Facts of the Case

In the recent (unreported) case of Peters v. Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc., the plaintiff was a deliveryman who injured his ankle in a supermarket parking lot while making a delivery. He filed suit against the supermarket and the person to whom he was making the delivery, asserting a claim of negligence. The case proceeded to trial and resulted in a defense verdict. The plaintiff appealed, arguing that the trial court had committed reversible error regarding five particular instructions to the jury.

The Decision of the Massachusetts Appeals Court

On appeal, the court affirmed.  Although the court agreed with the plaintiff that the trial court had erred with respect to its charge on duty and open and obvious danger, the court found that the mistake involved only a small portion of an otherwise valid instruction and did not affect the substantial rights of the plaintiff.  In particular, the court opined that the trial court should not have told the jury 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” because such an instruction blurred the distinction between the defendant’s duty and the plaintiff’s comparative negligence.

The court went on to decide that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to instruct the jury that the defendant’s alleged failure to comply with its own policies was evidence of negligence, nor was it improper for the trial court to decline to issue an instruction on non-delegable duty.

For Help with a Slip and Fall Lawsuit

If you believe that you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligence of a property owner, shopkeeper, or business operator, you should talk to an attorney about the possibility of a negligence lawsuit. The knowledgeable premises liability lawyers at the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, can help you investigate the accident and determine the likelihood of a finding of liability against the defendant. Call us at (888) 262-6664 to schedule a free consultation in our Hyannis or Plymouth offices. We serve clients throughout the greater Cape Cod area.

Related Blog Posts

Massachusetts Court Reverses Summary Judgment in Case in Which Body Shop Employees’ Use of Hose May Have Created Ice that Led to Fall on Public Street – Fleming v. A Plus Auto Body, Inc.

Commercial Go-Cart Facility Was Not Entitled to Exemption from Liability Under Massachusetts Recreational Use Statute – Amaral v. Seekonk Grand Prix Corp.