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Massachusetts Court of Appeal Affirms Summary Judgment to Homeowners, Despite Child’s Serious Injury on Zip Line

There are many circumstances that can lead to a Cape Cod slip and fall or premises liability lawsuit. While many such cases involve adults, there can also be situations in which a minor child is injured on another’s property. As with other types of negligence lawsuits, the plaintiff in such a case has the burden of proving that the defendant breached a duty of care, thus proximately causing damages to the injured party.

If you or your child has been hurt by a negligent property owner, you should speak to an attorney about your case as soon as possible, as there is a statute of limitations that limits the time during which you may take legal action.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a woman who brought suit as the parent and the next friend of her a minor child who was allegedly injured as a result of a fall from a zip line that the defendants had installed in their backyard. Because the zip line did not have a seat, the child’s father held him up by the hips and guided him for a few feet before letting him go. The child traveled a short distance and then lost his grip. Reportedly, his father grabbed him as he was falling, but the child’s arm hit the ground and was fractured so severely that several surgeries were required. In their negligence claim, the plaintiffs focused on the defendants’ failure to install a safety seat attachment to the zip line, arguing that this failure rendered the zip line unreasonably dangerous. The plaintiffs also asserted that the defendants had failed to warn the child of the danger of the zip line.

The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, which the trial court granted. According to the trial court, the danger that a child of the minor plaintiff’s age (six years) might lose his grip while dangling from the hand trolley was so obvious that it was reasonable for the defendants to conclude that a person of ordinary intelligence would perceive the risk and avoid it.

Decision of the Court

The Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed the lower court’s entry of summary judgment for the defendants, first noting that the duty to warn of a dangerous condition is owed to an adult supervising a child, not to the child himself. Here, the minor plaintiff was on the defendants’ property because he had been taken there by his parents, including the adult plaintiff. The child had then used the zip line with his father’s assistance and under his father’s supervision. Because the danger at issue was open and obvious to the child’s father, the defendants did not have a duty to warn the father about the lack of a seat on the zip line.

With regard to whether the defendants owed the plaintiffs a duty to remedy the open and obvious condition of the zip line, the court found that the plaintiffs had failed to show that the zip line was “unreasonably dangerous.” In so holding, the court noted that the zip line was low enough for the child’s father to lift him up to the trolley by his hips and that there was no evidence of poor construction.

How to Get Assistance with Your Case

If your child has been hurt on someone else’s property, you may be able to seek compensation on his or her behalf. As this case demonstrates, premises liability lawsuits filed against allegedly negligent landowners can be challenging, but each case stands on its own merits so it is important to consult an experienced Cape Cod slip and fall accident lawyer to review your particular case. To schedule an appointment at The Law Offices of John C. Manoog III, call 888-262-6664 and ask for a free consultation.