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Articles Posted in Premises Liability

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

In most circumstances, a person who is harmed by the negligence of another party can seek monetary compensation for medical expenses, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and other damages caused by the act of negligence.

In the case of a public entity defendant, however, there are limitations on, among other things, the maximum amount of money that the injured person can receive in a Massachusetts personal injury lawsuit arising from a governmental unit’s negligence. While this may seem unfair, the idea is that a judgment against “the government” is ultimately borne by the taxpayers. Controlling the maximum amount of a potential payout preserves the public coffers, purportedly inuring to the good of all.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent case was a public housing development resident. According to allegations in his complaint, he slipped and fell while navigating the stairs at his unit. He filed a lawsuit against the housing authority, a “controlled affiliate” of the authority, and the managing agent authority, seeking compensation for his injuries. The housing authority and the managing agent sought partial summary judgment, asking the trial court to deem them public employers under the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act (codified at Massachusetts General Laws ch. 258, § 2) and therefore not liable for damages exceeding $100,000. The trial court judge denied the motion, concluding that the Act “clearly defines the scope of a public employer” and does not include controlled affiliates within that definition.

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Generally speaking, in a Massachusetts personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit, it is the jury’s job to determine not only which party was at fault but also the amount of damages to which the plaintiff is entitled if the defendant is determined to have been negligent.

That having been said, it is important to note that the trial court judge may override the jury’s decision on damages in some cases. Such an action is the exception rather than the rule, however, and it is subject to review by the appellate court if either party challenges the ruling.

Facts of the Case

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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