Articles Tagged with Premises Liability

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field-trip-205687-mMichelle Wilkins was approaching a public school in Haverhill in February of 2011 to attend her child’s parent-teacher conference. As she was making her way to the school she slipped and severely injured herself on ice that had accumulated on a walkway of the school. After treating for her injuries and seeking medical intervention, she brought suit against the city of Haverhill alleging negligence in the city’s failure to properly maintain the walkways to be free of ice and accumulating snow.  She argued that this accumulation constituted a defect in the property. Additionally, as a result of the alleged negligence by the city of Haverhill for allowing such a defect to exist on its property, she was caused to sustain numerous injuries. The city of Haverhill responded to the allegations by seeking to dismiss the case. In a somewhat surprising defense, the city of Haverhill cited M.G.L. c. 21, § 17C, the Recreational Use Statute.

As previously mentioned on this site, under the Recreational Use Statute in Massachusetts, a city or private party who permits the public to use his or her land for recreational purposes without fee, will be relieved of liability for injuries allegedly sustained as a result of defects in the property. The trial court judge allowed the City’s motion to dismiss the case, and the injured Plaintiff appealed. On appeal, the city argued that the Plaintiff’s claim should be barred under the statute because she is a member of the public and her attendance at the parent-teacher meeting qualified as an educational purpose within the meaning of the statute. Continue reading →

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movie-house-771223-mAlthough property owners are not responsible for preventing every instance of violence, they must take reasonable steps to secure the premises in appropriate circumstances.  A negligent (or inadequate) security claim arises when a person is injured due to the poor or unreasonable safety precautions established by the premises owner.  In a case recently decided by the Appellate Court of Massachusetts, the Court held that a woman who alleged she was raped in the bathroom of Regal Cinemas in Bellingham could not have a new trial after judgment was entered for the Defendant cinema.  The Plaintiff claimed that Regal Cinemas should be held liable under the theory of negligent supervision, specifically, that the Defendant organization had policies or procedures in place that exacerbated or made it possible for such an egregious act to occur on its property.

The failure of a homeowner, business owner, or premises owner to prevent a crime does not establish the owner’s liability in a negligent security case.  Instead, the court will determine whether the underlying crime was foreseeable to the owner.  When a crime is reasonably foreseeable to occur on the premises of another there may be a duty to protect, and thus, negligence may attach.  The court has held that when it comes to security of premises, a landowner is not an insurer of land.  However, the court has articulated that liability may be warranted in certain circumstances which hinge on the foreseeability of the underlying acts: Continue reading →

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black-and-white-trampoline-733512-mA child sneaks out of his house onto his neighbor’s property late at night. He spots a trampoline on the property and heads in that direction. Without his parents’ consent, or the consent of the owner of the property, he climbs on the trampoline and begins jumping higher and higher. The minor is flying high in the sky. As he prepares his feet to hit the lining of the trampoline in an effort to jump even higher, he mistakenly hits the side of the trampoline which causes a gruesome leg break. After the homeowner hears the screams and contacts the appropriate authorities- the question remains… who is responsible for the injuries sustained by the child? The parents for failing to monitor their child? Or the homeowner for failing to properly fence or otherwise guard the trampoline?

In Massachusetts, a person who enters the land of another without any right or privilege to do so is considered to be a trespasser. Traditionally, an adult trespasser is entitled to no duty of care by the landowner. However, a landowner cannot engage in any willful, wanton, or reckless disregard for the trespasser’s safety. This generally means that a landowner cannot knowingly and intentionally disregard an unreasonable risk where there is a great likelihood that a person could be seriously injured should that person enter the land owner’s property (even without permission). What constitutes an unreasonable risk may vary depending on the circumstances of each particular case. However, when the trespasser is a child, as opposed to an adult, the law is vastly different.

Under Massachusetts General Laws, Ch. 231, § 85Q, any person who maintains an artificial condition upon his or her own land shall be liable for physical harm to children trespassing thereon if:

(a) the place where the condition exists is one upon which the land owner knows or has reason to know that children are likely to trespass,

(b) the condition is one of which the land owner knows or has reason to know and which he realizes or should realize will involve an unreasonable risk of death or serious bodily harm to such children,

(c) the children because of their youth do not discover the condition or realize the risk involved in intermeddling with it or in coming within the area made dangerous by it,

(d ) the utility to the land owner of maintaining the condition and the burden of eliminating the danger are slight as compared with the risk to children involved, and

(e) the land owner fails to exercise reasonable care to eliminate the danger or otherwise to protect the children. Continue reading →