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Building Code Violations Play a Role in a Personal Injury Case

stairsOn April 1, 2007 a Boston University student went with some friends to a bar and restaurant located in the heart of the city.  After spending some time in the establishment, the student walked down the hallway of the restaurant in order to find some quiet space in order to make a phone call.  He stood outside the kitchen and across from, what was later discovered to be, a staircase.  The staircase was not readily discernible due to the presence of hanging vinyl strips shielding its presence.  As the student proceeded with his phone call, he presumably lost his footing and tumbled down the stairs where he was unconscious until an employee of the restaurant found him lying on the floor.  After immediately being rushed to the emergency room, the student died two days later due to a basilar skull fracture and a subdural hematoma.  These injuries were received as a result of the fall.

The parents of the decedent brought a law suit in superior court in Massachusetts against the establishment claiming wrongful death and violations of Massachusetts General Laws Ch. 93A.  Ch. 93A, also referred to as the Consumer Protection statute in Massachusetts, details that:

“ Unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce are hereby declared unlawful.”

M.G.L. c. 93A outlaws unfair methods of competition, and unfair and deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce. The term “trade and commerce” is defined as including “the advertising, the offering for sale, rent or lease, the sale, rent, lease or distribution of any services and any property, tangible or intangible, real, personal or mixed, any security as defined in subparagraph (k) of section four hundred and one of chapter one hundred and ten A and any contract of sale of a commodity for future delivery, and any other article, commodity, or thing of value wherever situate, and shall include any trade or commerce directly or indirectly affecting the people of this commonwealth.”

A person who is injured by unfair methods of competition and/or unfair and deceptive acts in the conduct of any commerce may recover damage for those injuries.  These damages include double or triple damages as well as attorney’s fees in the appropriate circumstances.   By example, if a customer purchases a vehicle for $10,000.00 but it was advertised as being $7,500.00 by the dealership, the dealership has engaged in an unfair and deceptive act.  The customer can bring suit to recover the $2,500.00 difference.  Because the statute authorizes double and treble (triple) damages in certain situations- the customer may be entitled to recover $7,500.00 in damages and reasonable attorney’s fees.

In the case mentioned above, Klairmont v. Gainsboro Restaurant, Inc., the decedent’s parents claimed that the establishment had multiple and very serious hazards that constituted violations of the building code, which in turn, were violations of the Consumer Protection statute.  The court held that the establishment violated the statute due to the lack of lighting, lack of door, and the absence of any railing which contributed to the decedent’s fall.  Additionally, the court held that the building code was intended to, “protect consumers not only from dangerous or unhealthy conditions, but also from unscrupulous individuals who use such conditions to their economic advantage, without regard for potentially endangering consumers.”

If you have suffered a personal injury, there is a chance that your case may implicate the Consumer Protection statute.  If so, certain conditions need to be met in order for you to recover under the statute.  Our office can help you. To schedule a free consultation with lawyer Daniel Cappetta, call our office today at (508) 969-9505 or fill out or contact form available on the right side of this page.