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Articles Posted in Premises Liability

Since 2010, property owners in MA can be legally responsible for damages and injuries caused by a failure to remove snow and ice. The 2010 ruling replaced 125 years of legal precedent. Previously, owners were not liable for removing “natural accumulation” of snow and ice. But today’s landlords are legally obligated to treat snow and ice as a dangerous condition. Failing to do so could result in a personal injury lawsuit.

So, How Often Does a Landlord Have to Shovel Snow or Remove Ice?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this. In Boston, businesses have three hours and private residences have six hours to remove snow and ice. In Worcester, however, property owners have 12 hours. To be safe, snow and ice should be removed early and often. While it is not necessary to shovel every hour during an ongoing blizzard, doing so every few hours is a good idea. Once the snowfall has stopped, it is important for the property owner to ensure that snow is removed as quickly as possible.

If you are injured in a slip and fall accident in a store, should you file a personal injury claim? And if so, who should you file the claim against? The following article will help you determine if you have a successful slip and fall case, and how to proceed if you do.

Was the Store Negligent?

If you’ve been injured in a slip and fall accident, step one is to determine if negligence played a role in your accident. Simply falling in a store doesn’t mean the store owners or managers are at fault. Tripping over your untied shoe laces, for example, wouldn’t justify a personal injury claim. But what if you slipped on a slippery substance that hadn’t been cleaned up? Well, it depends…

In the “slippery substance” scenario above, negligence may be a factor. Consider the following two scenarios:

  • Scenario A: A child grabs a glass bottle of iced tea from the store shelf and drops it, spilling iced tea all over the aisle floor. The mother notifies a store employee who immediately runs to the storage room to get a mop and a “Wet Floor” sign. In the moments before the store employee can get back to the spill, an elderly woman steps into the aisle and slips on the iced tea, breaking two ribs. No sooner has she slipped than the store employee returns with the mop and sign. He sees the woman on the ground and immediately calls for help.
  • Scenario B: A child grabs a glass bottle of iced tea from the store shelf and drops it, spilling iced tea all over the aisle floor. The mother notifies a store employee who says she’ll clean it up. But the store employee is on her cell phone, discussing plans for that night. Although she intends to clean up the spill, she forgets. The spill remains, untouched, for over an hour. An elderly woman steps into the aisle and slips on the iced tea, breaking two ribs.

In both scenarios above, the elderly woman may be able to file an injury claim based on negligence. However, proving negligence in scenario A may be difficult. In both scenarios, the woman slipped on a spilled substance that hadn’t been cleaned up. However, in scenario A, the store employee was doing everything in his power too quickly and effectively clean up the spill. In scenario B, the store employee prioritized a personal phone call over the safety of store customers. Continue reading

Parking lots and mechanical garages throughout Massachusetts often have automatic gates to control the flow of traffic coming and leaving. Unfortunately, equipment malfunctions can result in serious injuries to pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists who enter and exit through defective or poorly-maintained gates. When a person is struck in the head by the arm of an automatic parking gate, he may be seriously injured, or even killed. Possible injuries include traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, lacerations to the face, and paralysis.

Who is Responsible?

Public and private office buildings, schools, shopping malls, hotels, and parking garages are responsible for maintaining a safe environment for visitors to their property. When someone is injured due to a malfunctioning parking gate arm, the victim may decide to file a personal injury claim against the responsible party. But who is responsible? Depending on the circumstances of the accident, multiple parties may be liable for parking lot gate injuries, including:

  • Property owners
  • Gate manufacturers
  • Parking lot or parking garage managers
  • Maintenance workers

A Boston personal injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured by another’s negligence.

Determining Liability

Consider the following scenario: Linda is struck in the head by an automatic gate arm as she walks out of a hotel parking garage. Should she file an injury claim against the garage manager on duty that day? What about the hotel’s property owner?

Let’s say the hotel had just purchased an automatic gate last month. It was brand new at the time of purchase, was properly installed, and has been well maintained ever since. The garage manager on duty was properly trained on the gate’s use and was highly attentive on the day that Linda’s accident occurred. An investigation into the incident reveals a defect in the gate’s design.

In the case above, the property owner and garage manager upheld their duties to provide a safe environment. They were unaware of the design defect, and are not likely to be liable for Linda’s injuries. The manufacturer and / or designer of the gate, however, is another story entirely. If the design defect caused Linda’s injuries, the manufacturer is likely to be liable for any damages.

It’s all in the Details

But what if the details of Linda’s incident were slightly different? What if the injury was caused by a design defect but the property owner had been warned about the defect shortly after purchase? The property owner could have placed a warning sign next to the gate to warn of potential problems, or she could have replaced the gate with a different model. Instead, she chose to do nothing. In such a situation, the property owner will likely share at least some of the responsibility. In fact, she may be solely responsible, depending on various factors. For example, if the gate manufacturer had recalled the gate but the property owner had ignored the recall, the manufacturer may be off the hook entirely. A MA injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence. Continue reading

When someone is injured in a drunk driving accident, the first instinct is often to seek compensation from the intoxicated driver. Although the driver is certainly one of the sources from which you can recover damages, there may be others. In MA, dram shop liability laws allow victims to seek compensation from a business that over-serves alcohol to an intoxicated person.

A “dram shop” is a business that sells alcohol, and may include bars, nightclubs, social clubs, sporting venues, and liquor stores. Historical note – the term dram shop comes from alcohol’s traditional unit of measure, the dram. A MA injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured by a drunk driver who was over-served.

Last year, an Oregon man filed a $3.9 million wrongful death lawsuit against the driver that injured him and killed his father, as well as against the bar that served the visibly-intoxicated driver. The fatal accident was initially a hit and run, but police eventually tracked down the driver. In addition to the driver’s own negligence, the lawsuit alleges that the bar was negligent in over-serving her.

Dram Shop Responsibilities

Those who serve alcohol – bartenders, servers, and liquor store clerks, to name a few – have a responsibility to determine when a patron is visibly intoxicated. They are required to observe slurred speech and other associated behaviors. To do so, they must receive proper training, the provision of which is a requirement of the establishment’s owner. Dram shops in MA typically carry liability insurance to protect themselves in the event that an intoxicated driver leaves their establishment and causes an accident, or in any way harms another.

Wrongful Death Claims and Dram Shops

When a dram shop over-serves a patron and someone is injured as a result, the victim can sue for damages, including pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, and other associated costs. If someone is killed, the victim’s family may bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the intoxicated driver and the dram shop. In a wrongful death lawsuit, medical expenses may be recovered, as well as damages for funeral costs, the loss of the victim’s income, and loss of consortium. A Boston wrongful death attorney can help you recover damages if you’ve lost a loved one to another’s negligence.

Social Host Laws

In MA, it is against the law to allow a minor (anyone under the age of 21) to consume alcohol on your property. If you are caught doing so, you may face criminal penalties under MA’s social host laws. However, social host laws differ from dram shop laws in that a social host cannot be liable if a guest – adult or minor – becomes intoxicated and harms another. A dram shop case is a civil case in which a business is sued for over-serving someone who, in turn, causes harm to another. A social host case, on the other hand, is a criminal case in which a social host is charged with serving an underage guest on their property. Continue reading

In 2012, David Moradi was attacked by security staff in a Las Vegas nightclub, leaving him with a traumatic brain injury. The Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino’s Marguee nightclub was ordered to pay Moradi a whopping $160.5 million for compensatory damages. But he also sought another $483 million in punitive damages to punish the nightclub for bad behavior and deter staff from engaging in similar behavior in the future. Moradi has since settled with the nightclub for an undisclosed amount.

The 2014 lawsuit alleges that security and a manager forced Moradi into a private room where they demanded that he show identification and give them a credit card. All of this occurred after, Moradi claims, he had already paid a $10,000 tab. According to the Marquee’s attorneys, there was an issue with Moradi’s signature on the original bill. Moradi, who claims he was a VIP guest at the Marquee, accuses staff of doing a lot more than just asking for his signature. A Boston injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been unlawfully detained.

Moradi Feared for His Life

“The Marquee security members and manager shoved David to the ground, causing his head to forcefully hit the concrete surface … The Marquee security members and manager repeatedly hit and smashed David’s head into the concrete and continually held his head and right eye against the concrete with a high degree of pressure … Still pressing his head to the concrete, they asked, ‘Are you going to cooperate and give your ID back?’ Believing he could be killed, David agreed in order to end the violent attack.”

At the time of the accident, Moradi was a hedge fund manager, earning approximately $11 million annually. Since then, he has been diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and his hedge fund closed its doors. Although the amount of the settlement remains unknown, it is likely that it was between the $160.5 million in compensatory damages and the $640 million in total that he asked for. Based on jury interviews, it is highly unlikely that the initial $160.5 million award was appealed. “I would have given him everything,” said juror Sara Sanguinetti, “the way we saw the evidence.” A MA injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been harmed by another’s negligent or intentional actions.

Security Guards, Bouncers, and the Use of Excessive Force

Individuals in these industries are more prone to using excessive force than other groups due to the nature of their work. Physical force is a factor of their jobs, and there is a fine line between appropriate and excessive force. Security guards and bouncers can easily cross this line, resulting in serious harm, and even death. When a security guard’s use of excessive force results in injury, it may be considered an “intentional tort.” An intentional tort is a civil – not criminal – act that is committed on purpose, rather than from negligence. In some cases, security guards and bouncers can be charged with assault and battery. False imprisonment is another common charge in cases involving guards and bouncers who misuse their authority. Unlawfully detaining a guest or patron for an extended period of time can result in a charge of false imprisonment or false arrest.  Continue reading

For many New Englanders, nothing beats the first warm days of spring, when we clean off our porches and decks, and bring out the grill and patio furniture. Porches, decks, and balconies provide extra space for outdoor entertaining and relaxing. But worn, improperly-designed, or dangerous decks can collapse, leading to broken bones, spinal cord injuries, and traumatic head injures. When decks are especially high, collapses and falls can be fatal. If you have been injured in a porch or deck collapse, who is responsible?

Property owners or managers have a duty to ensure that porches and decks are well-maintained, inspected regularly, and structurally sound. If an inspection reveals problems, it is the property owner or manager’s responsibility to make sure that necessary repairs are completed in a timely manner. If you were injured due to a poorly-maintained porch or deck, a MA personal injury lawyer can help you determine if you have a successful injury claim.

When is a Property Owner or Manager Not Liable?

In certain circumstances, the owner or property manager may not be at fault if a porch or deck collapses and injures another. Some of these special circumstances are included below:

  • The injured person knew about the dangerous condition before the injury occurred.
  • The dangerous condition was obvious and the injured person should have seen it.
  • The owner or property manager had no way of knowing that the dangerous condition existed.
  • The injured person created the dangerous condition through his or her misuse of the premises.

Let’s consider the following scenario. You rent a Boston apartment, and the property owner lives in Florida. When you signed the lease, the deck was in perfect shape. Last month, a tree fell on the deck during a storm, causing severe damage. You noticed the damage, but failed to report it to your landlord. Last night, you walked onto the deck to smoke a cigarette, and the damaged portion of the deck collapsed. In this situation, filing a personal injury claim against your landlord for negligence will not likely result in compensation. If, on the other hand, you contacted your landlord immediately to report the damage, but he or she never responded (despite multiple phone calls and emails), you may be able to recover damages for injuries suffered. A Boston injury lawyer can hep you determine how to move forward. Continue reading

The Angry Bull Saloon, a bar in Hartford, Conn., will not reopen following a tragic incident that occurred on March 3 involving a teenager who fell from the roof level of the building that housed the bar.

An investigation by police concluded that the death of an 18-year-old female was an accident, but the police also believe that the teenager was at the bar before she fell four stories to her death. Toxicology reports have yet to be released, so it is unknown whether or not the teenager was intoxicated at the time of her fall.

The Angry Bull agreed to turn in its liquor license and close its doors during the investigation, and has now officially decided to close indefinitely because the city of Hartford would have imposed costly new security measures as an ultimatum to reopen. As requested by the chief of police, the bar would have had to have paid the city for police details on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, a cost of about $584 a night.

Police reported that the teenager was able to gain access to the bar with a “very good” fake ID, and that she still had a wrist band from the bar on her wrist when she accidentally fell from the fourth-floor of the building. Police said she was able to get onto the roof by simply walking up a set of outdoor stairs and then climbing a ladder up to the roof. It is believed she was alone at the time of the incident.

The Angry Bull had already caught the attention of Hartford police before the tragic incident, as they had been the subject of three referrals to the Liquor Control Commission since November; including two for allegedly allowing underage drinking.

One of these referrals was closed without any action taken, and the other remained under open investigation. According to the Courant, state and local police were in the midst of planning an undercover operation at the bar at the time of the accident.

Many responsible for this tragedy

Although you should never climb to the roof of an unfamiliar building without any supervision or proper safety precautions (and especially not if you have been drinking any amount), it should not have been so easy for a teenager to gain access to a roof that is four stories high. It should not have been possible for an underage person to gain access to a bar, no matter how convincing her fake identification was.

While the bar has done the right thing in closing down their business following such a horrific event, they are still not out of the woods when it comes to liability for the death of the teenager. If it turns out that she was intoxicated at the time of the accident, the owner and bartenders who served the young woman will be in significantly more trouble.

Likewise, the owner of the building that housed the bar would be liable for the tragedy as well, since they did not prevent access from the foreseeable and dangerous situation of somebody gaining access to the roof. Both the owner of the bar and the owner of the building may eventually be taken to court due to their negligence that helped contribute to a death.

Ensuring that your place of business, and ensuring that any property you own, doesn’t become a hazard to those that patronize it is a fundamental responsibility of the individuals that own these properties. Continue reading

You’re the parent of a Massachusetts high school student and have done a tremendous job so far of encouraging your child to always be honest and always ask you questions, even the ones that make you uncomfortable. One day, you get a question you never truly expected to get: “Mom, dad, I want to invite over a few friends. They were going to drink, so I thought it would be safer for us to do it here. Is that okay?”  You know that your child is a good kid, and you know that teenagers will probably find a place to drink anyways, so you agree. After all, you’ll supervise the party and make sure that nothing goes wrong, right? By 2:00 a.m., the party has died down and mostly all of the teens are asleep. You feel like the coolest parent on the block and you finally allow yourself to go to bed.

In the morning you are jolted awake by a call from the police. One of your child’s intoxicated friends snuck out shortly after you dozed off and got into a severe car accident with another motorist. The child survived but the other driver was injured. Not only was your decision to host an underage drinking party illegal, you are also now completely liable for both the injured teenager and any action taken by the driver’s family.

Providing alcohol or a place to drink for anyone under 21 is illegal

Massachusetts has strong laws on the books about “furnishing” alcohol to any individual under the age of 21. To furnish means to knowingly and intentionally supply, give, or allow the possession of alcohol to those under 21. If found guilty perpetrators can face up to a $2,000 fine and up to a year in prison, not to mention the thousands, or potentially millions, of dollars in civil suits that could follow.  Adults will be liable for any individual who gets drunk on their property – even if it’s a rented hotel room – and proceeds to cause damage or harm to any property or other individual. Homeowners insurance likely won’t cover these costs, especially if the intoxicated, underage individual causes damage or harm after getting behind the wheel of a car.

While parents might think that they are being cool and responsible by keeping a close eye on the activity, underage drinking is still underage drinking. The better approach is to always talk with your child about the dangers of underage drinking and what the consequences of such actions could be. While you can’t control every action your child makes, you can always control what goes on in your own home. Continue reading

You’re the parent of a high school student and have done a tremendous job so far of encouraging your child to always be honest and always ask you questions, even the ones that make you uncomfortable. One day, you get a question you never truly expected to get: “Mom, dad, I want to invite over a few friends. They were going to drink, so I thought it would be safer for us to do it here. Is that okay?”  You know that your child is a good kid, and you know that teenagers will probably find a place to drink anyways, so you agree. After all, you’ll supervise the party and make sure that nothing goes wrong, right? By 2:00 a.m., the party has died down and mostly all of the teens are asleep. You feel like the coolest parent on the block and you finally allow yourself to go to bed.

In the morning you are jolted awake by a call from the police. One of your child’s intoxicated friends snuck out shortly after you dozed off and got into a severe car accident with another motorist. The child survived but the other driver was killed. Not only was your decision to host an underage drinking party illegal, you are also now completely liable for both the injured teenager and any action taken by the deceased driver’s family.

Providing alcohol or a place to drink for anyone under 21 is illegal

Massachusetts has strong laws on the books about “furnishing” alcohol to any individual under the age of 21. To furnish means to knowingly and intentionally supply, give, or allow the possession of alcohol to those under 21. If found guilty perpetrators can face up to a $2,000 fine and up to a year in prison, not to mention the thousands, or potentially millions, of dollars in civil suits that could follow.  Adults will be liable for any individual who gets drunk on their property – even if it’s a rented hotel room – and proceeds to cause damage or harm to any property or other individual. Homeowners insurance likely won’t cover these costs, especially if the intoxicated, underage individual causes damage or harm after getting behind the wheel of a car.

While parents might think that they are being cool and responsible by keeping a close eye on the activity, underage drinking is still underage drinking. The better approach is to always talk with your child about the dangers of underage drinking and what the consequences of such actions could be. While you can’t control every action your child makes, you can always control what goes on in your own home. Continue reading

A dram shop is an American legal term that refers to a bar or vendor of alcoholic beverages, named after certain institutions in 18th Century England where alcohol was served by the spoonful, also called a dram.  Dram shop liability involves the series of laws regarding the liability of alcohol vendors such as bars, taverns, liquor stores, restaurants, nightclubs, country clubs, athletic and sports venues, and fraternity organizations.  Under dram shop liability laws, such establishments can usually be held liable in cases where visibly intoxicated individuals or minors are served alcohol and subsequently, these individuals cause serious injury or death to a third party.  The particular liability laws vary depending on the state.  It may seem unfair that bars can be held accountable for accidents and injuries caused by a customer at their business, but the law requires you to be aware of over-consumption of alcohol by your patrons if you own a bar.  Most states also require your staff be trained to recognize over-consumption as well.  It is possible that if one of your patrons injures or kills someone else due to intoxication after visiting your establishment, you can be found just as liable as the patron.  In certain states, continuing to serve alcohol to a customer who is visibly intoxicated can result in criminal charges.

Some states allow injured people to sue alcohol vendors for damages through a civil claim under dram shop laws, but Massachusetts does not.  The state does have several laws in place that restrict the irresponsible sale of alcohol.  Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 138, Section 69 prohibits vendors from giving alcohol to an “intoxicated person”.  This requires waiters and bartenders to take note of the typical symptoms of alcohol intoxication such as slurred speech, slowed or delayed reaction time, aggression and other common symptoms.  In past cases, vendors who violate this law have been found negligent following a civil lawsuit.  In order to successfully prove a vendor liable in such a case, the injured person must prove the patron was visibly intoxicated while the vendor continued to serve him or her alcohol.  The injured person can only file a personal injury claim in this context, meaning against a vendor of alcohol.  An injured person would not be able to file a personal injury claim against a social host who provided alcohol to guests after they were visibly intoxicated.  Social hosts can face criminal charges, however, if he or she provides alcohol to a minor under the legal drinking age while on the host’s property.  Continue reading