MA Slip and Fall Case is a Landmark Ruling by Mass. High Court!

Massachusetts Slip and Fall LawyerIn July 2010, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a landmark ruling in the case of Papadopoulos v Target Corporation. As a result of the Personal Injury/ Slip and Fall ruling, an owner of real estate in Massachusetts can no longer duck responsibility by asserting that they are not responsible to protect visitors from natural snow and ice accumulations.

Property owners in Mass. are now responsible to act reasonably to clear natural snow and slippery ice accumulations on their property. The Court refused to distinguish between the duty of landowners to protect against natural and unnatural snow accumulations. This is a very significant and important  Massachusetts slip and fall decision

Read the Decision here: Massachusetts Slip and fall Decision

The Supreme Court refused to distinguish between the duty landowners owe lawful visitors to the property for ice and snow as they owe a duty for other dangerous conditions on land. The MA Supreme Judicial court stated: “We now will apply to hazards arising from snow and ice the same obligation that a property owner owes to lawful visitors as to all other hazards: a duty to act as a reasonable person under all of the circumstances including the likelihood of injury to others, the probable seriousness of such injuries, and the burden of reducing or avoiding the risk.”

“The duty of the landlord being to exercise reasonable care to prevent the occurrence of defective or dangerous conditions in the common approaches, the fact that a particular danger arose from the fall of snow or the freezing of ice can afford no ground of distinction”

The Court set forth the duty of landowners to make reasonable efforts to protect visitors against snow and ice that they are aware of or should be aware of.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reasoned “This introduces no special burden on property owners. If a property owner knows or reasonably should know of a dangerous condition on its property, whether arising from an accumulation of snow or ice, or rust on a railing, or a discarded banana peel, the property owner owes a duty to lawful visitors to make reasonable efforts to protect lawful visitors against the danger.”…“an accumulation of ice or snow upon a common approach to a tenement house may impose upon the landlord a liability for injuries due to it, provided he knew, or in the exercise of a reasonable oversight ought to have known, of the existence of a dangerous condition and failed to exercise reasonable care to provide against injury by reason of it”

The High Court adopted the Restatement of  Torts by deciding that homeowners and property owners are not insurers of the safety of their guests. However the MA Court did impose a burder of reasonable care in light of the circumstances.

The Court stated “The duty of reasonable care does not make a property owner an insurer of its property; “nor does it impose unreasonable maintenance burdens. The snow removal reasonably expected of a property owner will depend on the amount of foot traffic to be anticipated on the property, the magnitude of the risk reasonably feared, and the burden and expense of snow and ice removal. Therefore, while an owner of a single-family home, an apartment house owner, a store owner, and a nursing home operator each owe lawful visitors to their property a duty of reasonable care, what constitutes reasonable snow removal may vary among them.”

“Conclusion.Because we now abolish the distinction between the natural and unnatural accumulation of snow and ice, and because we apply the premises liability standard of reasonable care retroactively to injuries from slips and falls arising from accumulations of snow and ice, we vacate the allowance of summary judgment in favor of the defendants, and remand the case to the Superior Court for reconsideration of the defendants’ motion for summary judgment in light of this opinion.”

Massachusetts Personal Injury Lawyer David Slepkow has 15 years of experience as a RI and MA lawyer. Please contact Massachusetts Slip and Fall Attorney David Slepkow at 401-437-1100. David is also a Rhode Island Premises Liability Attorney.

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