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Articles Posted in Premises Liability

chef

Cases involving injuries at one’s workplace can be wrought with many potential complications. For example, a Massachusetts workers’ compensation claim might be met with a denial of benefits on the ground that the “employee” was actually an independent contractor.

Under Massachusetts law, independent contractors are not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. However, they may be able to sue their “employer” (the person or business with whom they had a contractual agreement to perform work) for negligence, if the employer’s failure to act in a reasonably prudent manner caused physical harm to the worker.

Often, a negligence case has the potential for a larger amount of money damages if the plaintiff is successful; a workers’ compensation case, however, has the advantage of not requiring the plaintiff to prove that the defendant was at fault in his or her accident.

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powerlinesElectricity is one of those things to which most of us give little thought – until something goes wrong. Unfortunately, things can sometimes go very wrong when a power company acts negligently, sometimes triggering a Massachusetts personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.

Governmental tort liability, including the possibility of immunity from suit, can be an important factor in such cases, depending upon the particular defendant that is being sued. Such cases must be handled with the utmost care, since a procedural mistake can result in a finding that the governmental entity is not liable for the plaintiff’s harm, even when obvious negligence occurred.

Facts of the Case

sidewalk constructionAs we go about our daily lives, we often find ourselves on property that we neither own nor control. This can include the hallway of a hotel in which we are staying on vacation, the floor of the supermarket in which we purchase our weekly groceries, and the sidewalk from which we exit our apartment in order to begin our day, as well as many other areas.

When an accident happens due to a property owner’s negligence, the injured person has the burden of proving that the entity that controlled the area in which the accident happened breached the applicable duty of care.

In a case recently considered by the Massachusetts Appeals Court, the plaintiff in an underlying case was successful in proving negligence, but another dispute arose between the insurance company, a property owner, and an independent contractor regarding who was responsible for paying the judgment awarded to the plaintiff in the personal injury lawsuit arising from the accident.

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meatballs
A Cape Cod product liability case can arise from many different types of products and can involve several different theories of liability. Claims of strict liability, negligence, defective design, manufacturing defect, breach of warranty, or failure to warn may be alleged, depending on the circumstances. Since product liability lawsuits are subject to both a statute of limitations and a statute of repose, it is important to get legal advice concerning your case as soon as possible. Claims not filed in a timely fashion are usually dismissed, regardless of the severity of the plaintiff’s injuries.

Facts of the Case

In a case recently under consideration by the appellate court, the plaintiff was a public school first grader who allegedly suffered traumatic brain damage after choking on meatballs served in the school cafeteria. Together with his parents, the student filed suit against the city that owned the school and the company that produced and sold the meatballs, alleging, among other things, that the meatballs contained “Profam 974,” which gave them an unreasonably dangerous texture and presented a choking hazard. The plaintiffs’ legal theories included negligence and breach of the implied warranty of merchantability.

beer bottleWhen someone gets hurt on another person’s property, there is a possibility that the injured person may be able to seek compensation from the property owner if he or she can prove that the injuries were caused by the owner’s negligence.

Massachusetts premises liability cases – sometimes called “slip and fall” or “trip and fall” cases – can be difficult, however. The burden of proof in any negligence case is on the plaintiff, and a failure to prove any of the four elements of negligence (duty, breach of duty, causation, or damages) will prevent the plaintiff from a monetary recovery.

Facts of the Case

carnival ridesIt’s that time of year again. Many families, trying to squeeze in one more trip before the kids head back to school, make the trek to amusement parks both near and far. Others take advantage of those special once-a-year local fairs and festivals, dazzled by the lights, enticed by the cornucopia of carnival-style foods, and thrilled by the many rides, slides, and merry-go-rounds on the midway.

Festivals, fairs, and amusement parks can be great fun. But are they safe?

Fatal Accident at State Fair in Ohio

Recently, a fair-goer was killed when a carnival ride apparently malfunctioned at the Ohio State Fair. According to reports, part of the ride broke off while it was in motion. Several people on the ride fell from the air as the ride came apart and crashed to the ground. Fair officials said the ride had been inspected multiple times in the days prior to the accident.

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ladderWhen a person is hurt on another person’s property, he or she has a right to seek compensation through a premises liability lawsuit. Of course, just as in any negligence case, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to prove that the defendant owed him or her a duty of care, that the duty of care was breached, that the plaintiff was harmed, and that there was a link of causation between the harm and the breached duty.

In proving his or her case, the plaintiff may introduce several types of evidence, including physical evidence, if applicable. In a recent case, an injured man sought sanctions against the defendant homeowners for their alleged destruction of a ladder that he alleged caused him to fall. He also sought the reversal of an order of summary judgment entered in the defendants’ favor.

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mall interiorThe term “hearsay” is sometimes used in everyday language to mean gossip or an unsubstantiated rumor. However, the term has a very specific meaning within the legal context. In the law, it refers to one person’s testimony about another individual’s statement or words.

Generally, hearsay statements are not admissible in court, but there are some exceptions. In the example above, the defendant’s statement might be admissible as a declaration against interest. It would be up to the trial court to decide whether, under the particular circumstances of the case, the statement would be an exception to the hearsay rule.

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Connections

Before a court can exercise jurisdiction over a defendant in a lawsuit, there must be personal jurisdiction – either general or specific.

General jurisdiction is much broader, subjecting a defendant to suit in the forum state in all matters, even those that have no direct relationship to the forum state. By contrast, specific jurisdiction exists only with regard to the defendant’s forum-based contacts.

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There are four components in a basic negligence lawsuit:  duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages. sidewalkWhether a duty exists in a given situation is usually a question of law to be resolved by the court.

Recently, a Massachusetts appeals court was called upon to resolve the issue of whether a landowner owed a duty to fix a defective public sidewalk or, alternatively, to warn those in the vicinity of the problem.

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