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Articles Posted in Premises Liability

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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lady's ankles

Have you ever wondered what an appellate court takes into consideration when deciding an appeal?

The answer is that it depends. The fact is that many issues are possible subjects of an appeal. In a recent case, the issues included the admissibility of certain testimony and demonstrative evidence, as well as whether a new trial should have been granted, due to allegedly newly discovered evidence.

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carnival rideIn order to obtain a jury verdict in a negligence case, including a case arising from an accident at an amusement park, fair, or carnival, the plaintiff must prove not only that the defendant owed him or her a duty of care and breached that duty, but also that the defendant’s breach of duty was the cause of the damages complained of by the plaintiff.

Recently, an appellate court in Massachusetts reviewed a jury’s determination that the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit had failed to prove the issue of proximate cause in her case seeking compensation for injuries sustained in a bounce house ride.

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dark stairwellLandowners and business operators have certain legal duties to those who come onto their property for business purposes. This includes the duty to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition.

However, those who enter another party’s property unlawfully are not necessarily owed the same duty of care. While the landowner does not have the right to intentionally or recklessly harm a trespasser, a trespasser cannot recover damages from a landowner for injuries suffered due to mere negligence on the landowner’s part.

Because of this important distinction, disputes can arise in premises liability actions regarding the injured person’s status as a business invitee or a trespasser.

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fresh milkIn order to adjudicate a claim, a court must have subject matter jurisdiction, personal jurisdiction, and venue. If subject matter jurisdiction is not present, the only remedy is dismissal of the case because the court lacks the authority to hear the case.

With regard to personal jurisdiction and venue, however, there is also the possibility of a transfer of the case to a more appropriate forum. This is especially true in the federal courts.

Recently, a corporation with deep ties to Massachusetts challenged the jurisdiction and venue of a lawsuit filed against it in a New York federal court.

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