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Articles Posted in Slip and Fall

In 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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Landowners 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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In 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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Releases and waivers of liability are so commonplace these days that many people sign them without even stopping to consider the consequences. Perhaps they even doubt that such agreements will hold up in court if an accident does happen.

The truth is that a release or waiver is an important legal document that has the potential to forfeit considerable legal rights, particularly the right to recover compensation for injuries (or even a wrongful death) suffered due to the negligence of the individual, business, or government to which the waiver is granted.

Occasionally, the courts will find a reason to rule a particular release or waiver invalid, but, very often, these documents are upheld as legally binding upon the person who signed them. Thus, it is always a good idea to carefully consider whether the activity for which a waiver is required is important enough to forego your right to sue, should you be seriously injured because of another party’s negligence or carelessness.

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Store owners, including those that own grocery stores, convenience markets, and other establishments selling food, have a responsibility to keep their premises in a reasonably safe condition. Although there are some general requirements, the specifics of what is considered “reasonable” can vary from case to case.

Generally, the term “reasonably safe condition” means that, at a minimum, a store or supermarket should keep its aisles clear and accessible, make sure its floors are clean and dry, and respond promptly should an employee or customer cause a spill or other issue compromising customer safety.

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Generally speaking, businesses and other landowners have a duty to maintain their premises and warn visitors of known dangerous conditions. A failure to do so can result in an award of monetary damages to a person who is hurt due to the business owner’s breach of duty.

Of course, such cases are often highly contested, with the defendant arguing that the plaintiff – rather than the business owner – was at fault in the accident. When the parties cannot agree on a reasonable settlement, it is up to a jury to decide who was at fault and, if the defendant is found liable, the amount of damages to which the plaintiff is entitled.

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When the negligence of a landowner or business operator causes a guest or customer to fall and suffer injuries, the injured person can file a premises liability lawsuit to seek monetary compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.

Typically, the defendant in such a case will attempt to avoid a finding of liability by claiming that the plaintiff was at fault, that some intervening act caused the accident, or, as in a recent case, that the defendant was not legally responsible for the property on which the plaintiff fell.

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The Massachusetts recreational use statute, also known as the Massachusetts public use statute, shields from liability those who make their land available to the public for recreational use in certain situations. Of course, this exemption is not automatic, and a landowner must prove that he, she, or it is entitled to immunity under the circumstances of a particular case.

Recently, the Massachusetts Appeals Court was called upon to decide whether a commercial recreational facility was entitled to relief from liability when it charged a fee to engage in certain activities but not to watch others as a spectator.

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Premises liability lawsuits can arise from a number of circumstances:  negligent maintenance, defective design, and debris left in walking areas, just to name a few. In these types of cases, sometimes referred to as slip and fall or trip and fall accidents, an injured person can potentially recover damages for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages if he or she is able to make out a successful case of negligence against the property owner.

Of course, this is sometimes easier said than done, since the property owner’s insurance company will often fight tooth and nail to avoid paying a claim, even when serious injuries have resulted. As with other negligence lawsuits, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to show each element of the case by a preponderance of the evidence.

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Business owners are supposed to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition. This includes performing necessary maintenance, regularly inspecting the property for dangers, and taking other, related steps to keep patrons from being injured.

If a property owner or business operator breaches the duty of care owed to a patron, he or she can be held liable for any resulting damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Of course, the burden of proof is on the customer to show the business’ breach of duty, and making out a prima facie case can sometimes be difficult.

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