Property owners have a duty to keep their property reasonably safe for those that enter the property, and they can be held liable for harm caused when they breach their duty. While the majority of premises liability claims arise out of slip and fall accidents, a property owner can be held liable for other dangerous conditions that cause a person harm. There are limits to the liability, however, as discussed in a recent case ruled on by the Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk, in a case in which a shooting victim brought a premises liability claim against the operators of the housing development where the shooting occurred. If you were injured on another person’s property it is prudent to meet with a seasoned Massachusetts personal injury attorney to discuss the facts out of which your harm arose and whether you may be able to recover damages.
Facts of the Case
It is alleged that the plaintiff’s decedent was standing on a public sidewalk when she was shot in a drive-by shooting. The decedent was paralyzed as a result of the shooting and ultimately died from her injuries. The plaintiff, decedent’s estate, filed a lawsuit against the defendants, who were the entities that owned the housing development that was adjacent to where the victim was shot. The lawsuit alleged that the defendants negligently failed to provide adequate security in the area and failed to warn the decedent of the dangers present in that area. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment which the trial court granted. The plaintiff appealed.
A Property Owner’s Duty to Prevent Harm
In order to succeed on a negligence claim in Massachusetts, the plaintiff must first establish the existence of a duty. whether a duty exists is a question of law, resolved by referring to prevailing social values and customs and public policy. The duty imposed on property owners is the duty of reasonable care towards all people who are lawfully on the premises. In some cases, the duty can extend to protecting people lawfully on the property from criminal acts of third parties. A landowner only has a duty to protect a person from the criminal acts of other people if there is a special relationship between the landowner and the person.