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Massachusetts Court Discusses Establishing Constructive Notice in Slip and Fall Cases

Trip and fall accidents can cause significant injuries that are not only painful but also require substantial time and money to treat. In many cases, such incidents occur due to dangerous conditions that the injured party encounters when walking on someone else’s property. Whether the property owner will be deemed liable for harm suffered in a fall largely depends on whether the person who fell can show the owner knew or should have known of the issue that caused the person to trip. The evidence needed to prove actual or constructive notice was the topic of an opinion recently issued by a Massachusetts court in a case arising out of a trip and fall. If you were hurt in a fall, it is smart to speak to a trusted Cape Cod premises liability lawyer to assess your possible claims.

The Plaintiff’s Fall

Reportedly, the plaintiff attended a burial at a cemetery owned by the defendant municipality. After the ceremony concluded, he walked from the gravesite towards his car. He did not walk on a path but over other graves. At one point, he stepped on what he referred to as a soft spot, which created a deep hole. His left foot and ankle got caught in the hole, and he suffered significant injuries.

Allegedly, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant, asserting its negligence caused his fall. Prior to trial, the defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing it had not breached any duty owed to the plaintiff. After reviewing the evidence of the case, the court granted the defendant’s motion.

Establishing Constructive Notice in Slip and Fall Cases

In Massachusetts, landowners are generally liable to invitees who suffer harm due to conditions on their property, but only if they know or by exercising reasonable care would have discovered the conditions and should realize that they involve an unreasonable risk of harm to such invitees, and should anticipate that invitees will not make a discovery or recognize the danger, but fail to take reasonable measures to protect the invitees against harm.

Thus, whether a landowner will be held accountable for harm suffered by an invitee typically turns on whether the landowner possesses actual or constructive notice of the unsafe condition that caused the harm. In the subject case, the evidence indisputably showed that the sinkhole that caused the plaintiff to fall was not known or visible, and therefore, was not a condition of which the defendant’s employees were or should have been aware. Thus, as the plaintiff could not establish the basic elements of negligence, the court granted the defendant’s motion.

Speak to a Seasoned Cape Cod Attorney

People often trip due to holes, uneven ground, and other dangerous obstacles, and the parties responsible for maintaining the properties where falls occur can often be held accountable. If you were hurt in a trip and fall accident, you should meet with a lawyer regarding what evidence you must produce to recover damages. The seasoned Cape Cod premises liability attorneys of The Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III can advise you of your rights and aid you in seeking the full amount of compensation available. You can reach us via the form online or at 888-262-6664 to set up a conference.

 

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