Appeals Court of Massachusetts Reviews Slip and Fall on Ice at Hospital

Businesses are expected to keep their premises safe for patrons. This duty under Massachusetts law requires owners and managers of property to address known harms in frequently traversed spaces like stairwells and sidewalks. Hospitals are frequently featured in personal injury discussions, either as the ultimate destination to treat injuries caused by negligence, or the site of medical malpractice. In a Massachusetts appellate case, Connaghan v. Northeast Hosp. Corp. (13-P-1419), a hospital is the location where a litigated slip and fall occurred.

The slip and fall occurred in December on a stairwell and walkway of a hospital. The injured party had walked through the walkway and later testified it was clear. He was taking his child to a pediatrician appointment and was unable to hold the lone rail on the side as he was holding his daughter with both hands. Testimony at trial showed he was not looking down or around at the ground as he stepped off the stairs. The injured man said that the walkway wasn’t clear when he came out from an appointment 30 minutes later. The injured party filed suit and took the matter to trial, but the jury found for the defendants because there was no evidence that a hospital employee or landscape worker found and reported ice prior to the injured man’s fall.

The injured man appealed, challenging the judge’s decision not to allow the building code regulations in evidence. One of the regulations required handrails on both sides of stairways, and another required stairways to be kept free of snow and ice. The appellate court did not feel that the exclusion of the regulations was inappropriate, and it was within the judge’s discretion to exclude. The court felt the admission would have unfairly prejudiced the defendants, and the issue was not timely raised during trial by the injured man. The court also felt that it was within reason for the judge to conclude the regulations weren’t relevant to the proceedings. The court pointed out that a regulation is only relevant if the harm that materialized was the harm the regulation was enacted to prevent. As the testimony described above, the fall did not occur as the result of the unavailability of a stair rail.

The court also felt that the judge made the exclusion fair for both sides, since the judge also excluded the defendants’ ability to argue that the injured person’s failure to use the one hand rail constituted contributory negligence. The court did not feel the issues related to keeping the walkway free of snow and ice were clearly preserved at trial because the focus stayed on the hand rail regulations. The appellate court felt none of the decision constituted harmful error to the injured person’s case, and as a result, it let the verdict for the defendants stand.

Civil litigation requires experienced counsel who are knowledgable in the law and able to think quickly on their feet during trial. The seasoned Massachusetts personal injury attorneys at the Law Office of James K. Meehan will work tirelessly to find you the legal and monetary relief you need to recover from you injuries. For a free, confidential consultation today, call our office at 508-822-6600.

More Blog Posts:

Appeals Court of Massachusetts Reviews What is a Necessary Piece of Safety Equipment, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog, February 11, 2015
Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Reviewing Board Considers Questions of Permanent and Total Incapacity Benefits, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog, February 26, 2015