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Articles Posted in Slip and Fall

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In a recent unpublished appellate court case, the plaintiff was reportedly an 84 year-old man whose shoe caught in an “eroded concrete surface” near a gas pump, causing him to fall.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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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

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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As 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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When 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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The 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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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. Whether 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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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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