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Articles Posted in Premises Liability

When someone is hurt on another’s property, there may be a possibility of filing what is commonly called a “slip and fall” or “premises liability” lawsuit against the landowner or business operator whose negligence caused the accident.

Of course, the defendant in such a case is likely to offer up a myriad of possible defenses, blaming the plaintiff for the accident or denying that the condition that led to the injury had been in place long enough for the defendant to have legal notice of it.

In some situations, there may be another possible defense, such as the recreational use statute.

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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In a recent unpublished appellate court case, the plaintiff was reportedly an 84 year-old man whose shoe caught in an “eroded concrete surface” near a gas pump, causing him to fall.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.
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All Massachusetts personal injury and wrongful death cases are subject to strict filing deadlines called “statutes of limitation.” Cases not filed within the time set forth by these statutes are almost always dismissed on procedural grounds.

It is important to note that, in some cases, there may be other deadlines – sometimes, much shorter deadlines – in addition to the general statute of limitations. Again, failure to act within the required time period can be fatal to a plaintiff’s case.

One example of this is a claim against a city or municipality. In these cases, at least some type of minimal legal action (such as the giving of notice) must be taken within a matter of days, or else the plaintiff will be barred from monetary recovery against the responsible governmental entity.

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In a Cape Cod dog bite injury lawsuit, there can be a wide variety of issues. As always, the burden of proof lies on the party asserting the claim.

Insurance coverage can be an issue in some cases. Depending on the facts, it may be the plaintiff, or it may be the defendant who is seeking a declaration from the court to the effect that the plaintiff’s claim (if it is ultimately proven) is covered by a particular policy of insurance.

As in other cases in which an insurance company seeks to avoid liability for one reason or the other, proving that there is insurance coverage can be just as difficult a battle – if not even more so – than proving the elements of the underlying case.

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Most Massachusetts personal injury lawsuits proceed in a back-and-forth fashion reminiscent of a tennis match. The plaintiff serves his or her complaint on the defendant, and then the defendant responds by filing an answer.

The parties then file discovery requests, to which the opposing party files an answer. Motions may be filed, with responses thereto filed by the other side. Eventually, if the case is not settled, a trial is held, with more back-and-forth exchanges between the plaintiff and the defendant.

Sometimes, however, a defendant may not conduct his or herself in the usual manner, potentially leading to a default judgment – a judgment declaring that the plaintiff is entitled to relief because the defendant has failed to file an answer denying the allegations in his or her complaint.

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Construction site accidents are common in Cape Cod and elsewhere in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, legal claims arising from these types of on-the-job injuries can be more difficult to pursue than more traditional workers’ compensation cases.

One reason for this is that those in the construction industry may be injured by someone other than his or her direct employer. A particular individual might also be working as an independent contractor. In such a situation, workers’ compensation may not be available, and the injured person’s only remedy may be to filed a negligence suit against the person or company who he or she believes caused the accident.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was construction worker who was severely injured when a porch roof where he was working collapsed and caused him to fall about 12 feet to the ground. The plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit against the defendants, a contractor on the construction project, a trustee (the property where the accident happened was apparently owned by a trust rather than by an individual or corporation), and the person responsible for the maintenance of the property, seeking payment for his medical expenses of approximately $1.3 million, along with other damages resulting from the fall.

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If you are hurt because of a slip and fall-type accident in or around Cape Cod, do you know how long you have to file a claim against the negligent party who caused the condition that led to your fall? You may think you know, but, chances are, you only know part of the answer to this important question.

Generally speaking, there is a three-year statute of limitations for personal injury and wrongful death claims in Massachusetts. However, there may be additional considerations that could shorten the effective time for taking legal action to a much shorter time – perhaps even a matter of days rather than a matter of years.

For example, for claims against governmental entities for injuries caused by a “defective way,” an injured person has just 30 days to filed a formal notice of claim (a precursor to a lawsuit filed in court) with the appropriate entity under Massachusetts Gen. Laws ch. 84, §§ 15, 18. If this formal notice is not given, the defendant will most likely be able to have the plaintiff’s lawsuit dismissed later on – even if the suit itself is filed within the general three-year statute of limitations.

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When someone is killed while working on another’s property, those left behind may wish to consider the possibility of filing a Cape Cod wrongful death lawsuit. Of course, the likelihood of success in such a case depends very much on the particular circumstances of the decedent’s passing.

If the personal representative of the decedent’s estate is able to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant owed the decedent a legal duty, that this duty was breached, and that the decedent’s death was a proximate result of the defendant’s breach of duty, then the decedent’s estate may be entitled to substantial compensation for the decedent’s wrongful death.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent appellate case was the personal representative of the estate of a man who died after suffering a fall while making repairs to a three-story home that belonged to two of the defendants. The plaintiff also named a relative of one of the homeowners as a defendant; this individual was allegedly involved in the decision to hire the decedent to make the repairs that led to the decedent’s death. According to the plaintiffs’ complaint, the defendants did not supply the decedent with any safety equipment, nor did they apply for a building permit with regard to the work that was to be done. The decedent fell to his death when a ladder, lent to him by his brother, shifted.

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There are many steps to receiving fair compensation for injuries suffered due to the negligence of others. The first step in a typical Cape Cod personal injury lawsuit is an investigation into the accident giving rise to the plaintiff’s claim. The case then proceeds through a phase called “discovery,” during which issues such as the defendant’s alleged breach of duty and the plaintiff’s medical treatment and expenses are explored.

If an amicable settlement cannot be reached between the parties, the next step is a trial. In the case of a jury trial, each party can ask the court to give the jury specific instructions, based on his or her view of the law that is applicable to the facts of the case. It is up to the trial court judge to decide which instructions will actually be given. If one side or the other is displeased with the judge’s instructions, an appeal may follow the jury’s verdict.

Facts of the Case

In a recent (unreported) case decided by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Appeals Court, the plaintiff filed suit against the defendant inn, seeking payment for personal injuries that she allegedly suffered when she fell on the defendant’s property and broke her arm. According to the plaintiff, the defendant’s negligence was to blame for her fall. The case was tried to a jury, which returned a verdict in the inn’s favor on the plaintiff’s negligence claim. The plaintiff appealed.

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There are many different circumstances through which a Cape Cod premises liability lawsuit may arise. In a “slip and fall” case, a person may be injured due to a fall caused by a slippery substance on the floor of a grocery store or poorly constructed stairs outside a public building. If the property owner breached the duty of care owed to the plaintiff, the plaintiff may be able to recover money damages to compensate him or her for medical costs, lost wages, and other losses caused by the injury.

In a negligent security case, a property owner may be held liable for failing to protect the plaintiff from harm caused by a third party – typically a criminal whose intentional actions harm to the plaintiff. Such cases can be challenging, as the defendant typically attempts to shift the blame away from itself and onto the third party.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a man who was stabbed while waiting in his car for a friend outside a theater in 2011. The man sued the theater (and its parent companies), alleging that they were negligent in failing to provide police detail on the theater premises. (The plaintiff’s stabbing occurred on a Tuesday evening about 10 p.m. For some years prior to 2008 or 2009, the defendants had police detail on their premises seven nights a week, but they then restricted the detail to Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings only.) Continue reading

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