Articles Posted in Premises Liability

Ensuring the safety of visitors and tenants is a major responsibility for property owners in Massachusetts. Negligent security can have severe consequences, leading to injuries, assaults, or property crimes that could have been prevented with proper measures in place. Understanding the legal implications of negligent security is essential for property owners to protect both their occupants and themselves.

Duty of Care in Property Security

Property owners have a legal duty to provide a reasonably safe environment for those on their premises. This duty extends to implementing adequate security measures to prevent foreseeable criminal activities. Negligent security occurs when property owners fail to fulfill this duty, resulting in harm to individuals due to criminal acts.

Premises liability is a core component of personal injury law, especially when it comes to the rights of guests and invitees on someone else’s property. Premises liability refers to the legal responsibility of property owners to maintain a safe environment for those who enter their premises. In Massachusetts, property owners owe different levels of care to visitors based on their legal classification.

Premises liability claims are not uncommon, and they often result in serious injuries. According to the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI), over one million people visit the emergency room each year due to slip and fall accidents, a common type of premises liability claim. If you’ve been injured on another’s property, it is in your best interest to seek immediate legal counsel.

Legal Classifications of Visitors

Whether you’re at a friend’s house, a shopping mall, or a restaurant, you have the right to expect a reasonably safe environment. Unfortunately, negligent property maintenance and unsafe conditions lead to countless injuries and deaths every year.

In Massachusetts, premises liability law holds property owners responsible for accidents and injuries that occur on their property. Read on to explore the key aspects of premises liability in Massachusetts and what you should know if you find yourself in such a situation.

Duty of Care

Injured at the Mall: Who’s Responsible?

Accidents happen everywhere and shopping malls are no exception. Customers slip and fall in icy parking lots. Shoppers are pushed by rowdy Black Friday crowds. Escalators malfunction, causing catastrophic injuries and sometimes even death.

But if you are seriously hurt while at a mall, who is liable? In theory, the answer is simple: anyone who is negligent. In reality, many factors come into play. Where exactly did the accident happen? Could it have been prevented? Was it the fault of the mall owner or a tenant? If you have more questions than answers, a personal injury attorney can help you navigate the situation.

Many people know that bars can be liable for serving alcohol to customers who are obviously drunk. But did you know friends, family, and other private hosts may also be legally responsible for overserving their guests? While only commercial establishments are subject to Massachusetts liquor liability statutes, both businesses and private citizens can face penalties in civil court.

What does this mean to you? If you are injured by an intoxicated individual in Massachusetts, you have the right to sue not only that person but also whoever served that person too much alcohol.

When Does Alcohol Liability Law Apply?

Premises liability determines who is responsible if you are injured on a specific type of property. Whether it’s a home or a business, someone is at fault.

Residential Properties

On residential properties, homeowners or tenants may be liable for injuries on the property in question. Property owners have a duty to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition for people on the property lawfully. Injured people can make a claim against a property owner if they can prove that the owner breached this standard duty of care and that led to the injury. Assuming the injured party was lawfully present, the question in this type of litigation is namely: what condition was the property in at it pertains to the injury? Was the condition unreasonable for the property owner to leave unrepaired? Things get a bit complex when a landlord is leasing property to a tenant. The general rule is that the residential landlord is responsible for repairs that he had reason to know were required, even if the property is leased to a tenant.

In 2016, a 62-year-old man was seriously injured in a New York Costco store when a steel rod fell, striking him in the head. Peter Aurigemma Jr. has filed a lawsuit against the bulk retailer, alleging that he suffered damages due to dangerous and/or defective conditions.

According to the lawsuit, the victim was reaching for paper towels, which were located at least seven feet above floor level, when the steel pipe fell and struck him. Following the accident, Aurigemma Jr. suffered serious medical complications, including a concussion, loss of dexterity in his left hand, damage to the nerves and muscles surrounding his left eye, migraines, noise and light sensitivities, lapses in short-term memory, and even behavioral changes. As a result of these injuries, Aurigemma Jr. is seeking compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering and lost wages. A Boston personal injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured by another’s negligence.

Premises Liability

Under premises liability law, property owners are responsible for maintaining reasonably safe conditions on their property so that visitors aren’t harmed. The “status” of the visitor is important when determining liability. For example, trespassers have less rights than invitees. If you are injured while trespassing on store property after hours, your chances of winning a premises liability lawsuit are quite limited. In the Costco case above, however, the victim was not trespassing. In this particular scenario, he would be considered an invitee, or someone who is invited onto the property for a certain purpose, such as shopping. When a store is open to the public, the invitation is implied.

What if Both Parties are at Fault?

Although fault in Aurigemma Jr.’s case is yet to be determined, it is possible that both parties could be at fault. Maybe he grabbed a ladder marked “employees only” to reach the paper towels, possibly making him partially at fault. And maybe the placement of a steel rod on top of a roll of paper towels also makes Costco partially at fault. In MA, when both parties are at fault, a “comparative fault” system is used to reduce the victim’s legal damages by his/her percentage of fault. Therefore, if the victim is found to be 25 percent liable for the accident, his/her personal injury award will be reduced by 25 percent.

And this isn’t Costco’s “first rodeo” when it comes to premises liability lawsuits. The company was ordered to pay more than $400,000 to a slip-and-fall victim with a fractured ankle in 2017, and a New York woman who was hit by a shopping cart on a Costco escalator was awarded nearly $10 million in 2014. In this most recent lawsuit, Costco will have to prove that it took reasonable precautions to ensure the safety of customers. The allegation that paper towels—intended for customer use—were stacked more than seven feet high may have the greatest impact on the outcome of the case. Aurigemma’s lawyers will also likely question why a steel pipe was placed in close proximity to those paper towels. A MA personal injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured due to another’s negligence. Continue reading

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Fadil Delkic allegedly drove his car too close to a family in a Snellville, Georgia Walmart crosswalk. Troy Hunte and his girlfriend confronted Delkic, who remained in the vehicle and attempted to avoid an altercation (as evidenced by a surveillance video). Unfortunately, his attempts were in vain. Hunte shot and killed Delkic a few moments later. The victim’s widow, Bahra Delkic, has brought a wrongful death lawsuit against Walmart, claiming that the mega-retailer lacked adequate security.

“Given the history of violence in their parking lots,” the lawsuit claims, “and Wal-Mart’s [sic] knowledge they were not employing adequate security measures, it was foreseeable to Wal-Mart that the Plaintiff would be attacked in their parking lot and sustain serious injury or death.” A Boston wrongful death attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve lost a loved one due to the negligence of another.

Nothing New for Walmart

Walmart has experienced somewhat of a crime wave in recent years. Last year, law enforcement was called to the four Walmarts in Tulsa, OK nearly 2,000 times. While most of those calls are for shoplifting, there are plenty of more serious offenses, including five armed robberies so far in 2018, a murder suspect who shot himself in the parking lot in 2017, and a 2014 parking lot shootout that killed one and injured several others. In fact, more than 200 violent crimes have occurred at the country’s 4,500 Walmarts so far this year, including stabbings, shootings, murders, and attempted kidnappings.

What Happened?

Delkic was actually able to drive away from the initial confrontation and found a place to park. “Then, more or less, the fight was brought to him,” said Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter. Hunte’s girlfriend allegedly smacked Delkic across the face just before Hunte took out his gun and shot him in the chest.

Bahra Delkic’s lawsuit against Walmart also names Troy Hunte, who was shortly thereafter arrested and charged with murder. She is seeking compensation for “the full value of the life of Fadil Delkic, in an amount to be determined by the evidence.” A MA wrongful death lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve lost a loved one due to another’s negligence.

Is Walmart Doing Enough?

When Doug McMillon took over as Walmart CEO in 2014, he made crime reduction at Walmart stores nationwide a priority. As a result, the retailer allegedly maintains a detailed database of crimes occurring at their stores. According to reports from law enforcement in Port Ritchie, Florida, Walmart incidents comprise nearly 50 percent of all criminal offenses in that city. Even so, Walmart’s attorneys claim that the Delkic murder was an isolated incident and that Walmart had no way to know that the argument would escalate the way it did.

Is Walmart Liable?

In recent years, courts have become increasingly likely to hold retailers liable for parking lot crimes. Whether or not Walmart is liable in the Delkic case will come down to determining how foreseeable the murder of Fadil Delkic was. If this particular store has a history of crime, or is located in a high-crime area, Walmart is likely to be found liable. Continue reading

A two-year-old girl was killed in a tragic accident inside a Payless ShoeSource store last week. Ifrah Siddique was crushed when a large mirror fell as she was trying on shoes. The child was rushed to the Southern Regional Medical Center, but died from her injuries.

This tragedy calls into question the legal responsibilities of stores and other businesses, as well as the legal rights of those who are injured on their premises. Sadly, serious injuries and deaths in retail stores occur with relative frequency. Stores and other businesses open to the public often have heavy foot traffic, leading to an increased risk of something going wrong, eventually. Usually these incidents are minor, but not always.

Add frequent moving and re-arranging of displays and other heavy items to the inherent hazard of heavy foot traffic, and the risk of slip and fall accidents, traumatic brain injuries and death increases dramatically. Although minor accidents are sometimes difficult to predict – or prevent – serious injuries and fatal accidents should never occur. But they do. If you are injured due to a store’s negligence, a Boston personal injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed.

Who is Liable?

Patrons of retail stores and other businesses open to the public have legal rights protecting them from harm. When a patron or guest is injured, property owners can be liable under the theory of premises liability. In many cases, the property owner and business owner are two different parties. Because there may be multiple parties involved, determining liability can be a complex process. The property owner may be entirely off the hook if the injury was a result of negligence on the part of the business itself, or its employees. In some situations, all three are liable. And if an outside vendor was involved, things can become even more complicated.

When negligence – whether on the part of the property owner, business owner, employees or outside vendor, or any combination thereof – results in a patrons death, the family may bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible parties. A MA wrongful death attorney can help you recover damages if you have lost a loved one due to another’s negligence.

Premises Liability in MA

If a property owner owes you a legal duty of care and breaches that duty, you may be able to recover compensation for any injury or damage that results. That being said, whether you are entitled to compensation – and the level of that compensation – will be dependent on multiple factors. Why you were on the property is one of the most important factors.

  • Customers and others invited onto a property for the purpose of doing business are classified as invitees under MA law. Invitees are owed the highest duty of care.
  • Under MA law, friends and others who are invited onto a property for the purpose of a casual visit are classified as licensees. The duty of care owed to them is intermediate.
  • Trespassers are, of course, owed the lowest duty of care.

Continue reading

If you are having a New Year’s Eve party to ring in 2018, there’s a good chance you’ll be serving alcohol. Although there’s nothing wrong with guests enjoying a few adult beverages, it may be your responsibility to ensure that they do so responsibly, and that they are of legal age.

Most people are well aware that the national drinking age is 21, but did you know that you can be liable if an underage guest drinks alcohol at your party? This is true even if you didn’t serve the guest, and even if you were unaware that a minor was drinking. Commercial establishments, such as pubs and restaurants, have an official “duty of care” to patrons who consume alcohol on the premises. In the case of a house party, that duty is transferred to the host of the party (a.k.a. the social host). A MA personal injury lawyer can help you recover damages if you’ve been injured by a drunk driver.

As stated in the Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 138 Section 34:

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