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Articles Posted in Premises Liability

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

Several people were injured on Tuesday when a temporary construction wall collapsed in the Boston suburb of Malden. The collapse, which occurred in front of a Japanese restaurant on Pleasant Street, trapped 5 people before dozens of witnesses lifted the wall, freeing the victims. A mother, her husband, and their toddler were among the victims. The mother received non-life threatening injuries. Fortunately, her son was not seriously hurt. Contact a Boston Injury Lawyer Today.

According to Malden police Capt. Glenn Cronin, the collapse was likely due to a strong gust of wind. Deepti and Sudhir Soni were trapped under the fallen wall with their 2-year-old son. The mother was taken to the hospital immediately following the incident. Sudhir Soni reported that his wife was diagnosed with a C1 spinal cord fracture. She will need to wear a collar until the injury heals. The family was walking on the Pleasant Street sidewalk when the plywood barrier collapsed. According to witnesses, the toddler’s stroller frame protected him from serious injury.

“I Wouldn’t Wish It On Anybody”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is currently assisting local authorities with the investigation. In addition to the family of three, two other women, Albertina Pierre and Maureen Finn, were also injured. Pierre’s son said his mother was crying. “She was like ‘Isaiah I could have died,’” he said. Finn also recounted the traumatic experience. “It was so heavy it was unbelievable, I wouldn’t wish it on anybody,” she said. “I had walked by it several times, I thought it would be light, but it just crushed all of us.” Paul Frazer, who was in a nearby jewelry store, was one of many witnesses who rushed out to help when the wall collapsed. “We didn’t know what happened so we just kind of ran out there and we saw some people underneath, we heard a baby crying, just tried to lift it up and get the people out from underneath,” he said.

You Just Never Know

Fortunately, nobody suffered life-threatening injuries in Tuesday’s incident. However, it serves as a good reminder that ‘freak accidents’ can happen at any time, in any place. Living in the city, most of us walk past temporary construction walls and scaffolding multiple times each day. While the vast majority of these structures are sound, exceptions do exist. In fact, a similar incident occurred last week when construction staging collapsed in the North End, injuring a worker. Always use caution when walking beside, or under, these types of temporary structures. Unfortunately, when they do fall or collapse, injuries are common and can be serious or even fatal. This year, multiple scaffolding and staging collapses resulted in fatalities in New York City, Houston, and Raleigh, N.C. Continue reading

As children settle into the new school year, school playgrounds are once again being put to the test. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that an estimated 200,000 children under the age of fifteen visit emergency rooms for playground injuries every year. The most common reasons for the high number of playground-related injuries are improper maintenance, faulty equipment, and lack of proper supervision. Depending on the individual circumstances of a particular case, fault may lie with either the property owner or the manufacturing company responsible for the design of the playground equipment.

Lack of Proper Playground Equipment Maintenance

Schools are responsible for keeping playground equipment properly maintained, conducting regular safety inspections, and staying in compliance with regulations. With consistent daily use, school equipment in particular is highly susceptible to wear and tear. Rust from exposure to the elements can cause screws and bolts to loosen. Slowly rotting wooden floorboards on climbing equipment can break during use if not checked regularly. Nails and other sharp edges may begin to protrude over time, resulting in safety issues. Daily maintenance by staff should include assessing the safety of slippery surfaces and checking for potential hazards, including those mentioned above. If a child is injured because of any type of preventable hazard on school property, the school may be found negligent.

Dangerous Design and Construction of Playground Equipment

As with all types of product liability, one aspect of fault may lie with the design of the equipment. School districts generally hire a construction company to build playgrounds designed, or supervised by, a specific design company. If either party has overlooked safety issues that ultimately result in an injury, one or both parties may be held liable for damages. Examples of faulty design include a climbing structure without a regulated railing to prevent a child from falling and breaking a limb. Additionally, playgrounds should have specific surfaces with higher levels of shock absorption. If a child is hurt due to lower quality surfaces, there may be a case for product liability. The Consumer Products Safety Commission provides safe design standards for playground equipment. Continue reading

A woman who suffered a horrific rape in a hotel parking garage in 2009 has been awarded a multi-million dollar verdict from the jury hearing her case. Kira Wahlstrom, who was brutally assaulted in a Boston based Radisson hotel parking garage, had pressed charges against the owners of the hotel and the garage for what happened to her. The jury found that the company that owned the hotel at the time of the attack, JPA, was negligent—and in their negligence they contributed to this assault taking place.

The attack on Kira Wahlstrom occurred shortly after she exited an elevator on her way to her vehicle after work. The man riding the elevator with Ms. Wahlstrom grabbed her by the neck and head and proceeded to drag her into a stairwell where he violently raped her for over 25 minutes. Kira Wahlstrom screamed for help—but no one came to her aid. According to new reports, two security guards were in the lobby of the hotel at the time of the incident but neither of the guards responded to her cries. It was not made immediately clear if they had heard the attack at the time.

Just 12 days prior to the attack Wahlstrom faced, another woman was raped by the same suspect at the same garage. The unidentified woman was an employee for the hotel at the time of the assault. Kira Wahlstrom feels as though it were the duty of the hotel management as well as the management for the parking garage to inform the public about the attack that took place so individuals may be able to protect themselves accordingly. “It could have been prevented,” Wahlstrom has said about her assault. The jury for the case similarly concluded that the owners of the garage were responsible for informing others of the initial attack in order to protect others from suffering the same fate. Continue reading

The victim of a brutal rape at a Boston parking garage was awarded nearly $7, after a jury found the parking garage owner negligent for failing to warn and protect her from a rapist that had attacked another woman in the same garage less than two weeks prior.

Kira Wahlstrom was attacked back in 2009. “It means the world. It really does,” she told 5 Investigates’ Karen Anderson. “I had justice.”

The Suffolk County jury awarded Wahlstrom $4 million, which with interest, increased the award to more than $6.6 million. The verdict was decided after jury members found JPA, the former owners and managers of the Boston parking garage next to the Radisson hotel, were negligent.

“It could have been prevented,” Wahlstrom said to 5 Investigates. “It never had to happen.”

The jury did clear the garage, currently LAZ Parking, of any negligence. LAZ Parking was contracted to assist with management of the garage. The rapist, Jose Ruben Rivera III, pleaded guilty to both assaults.

Wahlstrom and her attorney, Don Keenan, hope this the case sheds more light on security issues and will increase security in Boston parking garages. They have already contacted the mayor’s office and Boston City Council to address the issue.

“We need to have better parking garage security, whether it be cameras or one person on every floor. They need to do something so that people are safe when they go there,” Wahlstrom said.

Continue reading

It is every parent’s worst nightmare: getting the call that your child was injured while under the watch of caregiver.

For Shaunna Broadway of Oklahoma, she was stunned to learn that the daycare facility she sends her sons, Connor, 7, and Trae, 5, to had taken the boys to a splash park and allowed them to play outside for hours, without sunscreen.

According to CNN, Broadway had dropped her boys off at Happiness is a Learning Center last week at 9 a.m. When she arrived to pick them up, her sons were crying and writhing in pain, their skin red with severe sunburn. Staff at the daycare told the single mother that they did not have sunscreen and that the boys had refused to keep their shirts on. Broadway was advised by a local pharmacist to apply aloe to her sons’ skin—but soon found herself in the emergency room. By Sunday morning, the boys were transported to Shriners Hospital for Children with boils on their shoulders and backs and Connor complaining of chest pain. The brothers were treated for serious, second-degree burns. Son Connor’s burns had eventually reached a level of third-degree and both boys, sadly, had to have skin removed from their backs.

Summer in Boston can often be a  time to leave your windows open and let the breeze roll in, an action of relief from the stifling heat. What most people fail to realize though is that these open windows may pose an enormous safety hazard for any young children present in the home—particularly if your windows are open on a high floor. During the past few weeks there have been numerous incidents where young children have fallen through open windows and suffered serious injuries; serious injuries that some may even die from if they fall a great distance.

Early Friday morning a 2 year old girl from Boston fell out of the window of her 2nd floor apartment located on 134 Hampton Street, and landed on the patio below. Initial reports indicate that the distance the young girl fell was between 12 feet and 15 feet. Thankfully, she did not suffer any serious injuries from the fall. She was transported to Boston Medical Center following the incident and is being treated for non-life threatening injuries. The girl’s mother indicated that she believes the girl pushed aside cardboard that had been propped against the window, which is what opened the area up for her to fall through.

This occurrence is not uncommon. Children playing near windows or leaning against them will often push too hard against the screen, causing it to dislodge. This can happen fairly easily and quickly, which leaves children in a vulnerable position and prone to falling straight through the opening. Parents are encouraged to check the security and stability of the screen windows in their homes and to monitor children that may be playing near the window in order to prevent any injuries from occurring. Continue reading

A rape survivor is speaking out against the hotel owners and garage owners she feels are partly responsible for the attack she suffered in a Radisson hotel parking garage over six years ago. Kira Wahlstrom, a survivor and a mother, spoke to reporter Karen Anderson from Channel 5 News as well as a Suffolk Superior Court jury about the brutal rape. Kira Wahlstrom is angry about what happened to her, and her anger is only fueled further by the fact that another woman was raped by the same man in the same parking garage just 12 days before her own attack took place.

Kira Wahlstrom has said that she believes former hotel owners and owners of the garage should have provided information about the rape of one of the hotel’s employees to people who had access to both the hotel and the parking garage. Wahlstrom feels as though her rape could have prevented if she were provided with the knowledge of the hotel employee’s rape in advance. She has said in an interview that “The woman that worked there was raped 12 days before by the same man and they didn’t do anything not only to not protect me that was a paying customer but their own employee.”

She went on to say that she feels as though the management company for the parking garage should have also provided additional security to those accessing the area in order to prevent any further attacks from taking place. She recalled the exact events that led up to her traumatizing rape, and has stated to a jury that she still thinks about what happened to her every single day. Continue reading