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$425,000 Damages Award in Slip and Fall Case Affirmed by Massachusetts Court of Appeals

In a Cape Cod premises liability case, the plaintiff has the burden of proving that the defendant landowner or shopkeeper was negligent in maintaining its property. Of course, the defendant will likely deny that it should be held liable for the plaintiff’s slip and fall accident, pointing the finger back at the plaintiff for the accident or denying that the dangerous condition described by the plaintiff even existed. It is up to the jury to resolve the factual issues between the parties.

Facts of the Case

In a recent unpublished appellate court case, the plaintiff was reportedly an 84 year-old man whose shoe caught in an “eroded concrete surface” near a gas pump, causing him to fall. The plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit against the defendant gas station owner, seeking monetary compensation for the injuries that he suffered in the fall. At trial, a fellow customer, who witnessed the incident, testified that the disrepair was readily apparent and had been in place for quite some time. In response, the defendant insisted that the gap that caused the plaintiff’s fall was so minor a defect that, as a matter of law, it could not give rise to a violation of the defendant’s duty of care to the plaintiff.

The jury found in the favor of the plaintiff (who was joined in the action by his wife, who asserted a loss of consortium claim), awarding him $450,000 and his wife $200,000. The trial judge issued a remittitur, reducing the plaintiff’s damages award to $300,000 and the wife’s to $125,000. The plaintiffs accepted the remittitur. The defendant filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and/or for a new trial; the trial court denied both motions.

The Appeals Court’s Opinion

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed the lower court’s decision. In reviewing the defendant’s argument asserting that the condition at issue did not give rise to a breach of duty, the court noted that the case law upon which the defendant relied pertained primarily to defects in public ways and public sidewalks. Municipal liability, according to the court, was based upon different policy considerations than that of for-profit enterprises like the defendant herein. The court went on to hold that, even if this were not so, the defendant’s argument would nevertheless fail based upon the evidence. According to the court, the jury could have reasonably concluded that the defendant had, in fact, violated the duty of care that it owed the plaintiff.

The court went on to disagree with the plaintiff’s arguments that the jury’s inference that the condition at issue caused the plaintiff’s fall was in the nature of speculation and conjecture or that the plaintiff was barred from recovery under the principles of comparative fault.

Call and Schedule a Free Consultation

If you have been hurt in an accident on someone else’s property, you may be entitled to pursue substantial compensatory damages. To schedule a free consultation to discuss your situation with an experienced Cape Cod slip and fall accident attorney, please call The Law Offices of John C. Manoog III, at 888-262-6664. If you cannot come in to our Hyannis or Plymouth offices, we can arrange to visit you in your home or hospital room, so there is no reason to delay getting started on your case.