Under Massachusetts law, when a person dies in an accident, the person’s estate will often seek damages from the parties that may have caused the events leading up to the person’s death. Simply because an accident occurred does not necessarily mean that a party will be deemed liable, however. This was shown in a recent case in which the court affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s wrongful death claims due to his failure to establish that the defendant owed any duty to the deceased person. If you lost a loved one in an accident caused by another party’s reckless acts, it is prudent to speak to a trusted Massachusetts personal injury attorney to discuss what you must prove to recover damages.
It is reported that the plaintiff’s decedent was hit by a car when he was walking in the street, and subsequently died from his injuries. The facts demonstrated that he entered the street because the sidewalk that was adjacent to the roadway was impassable due to an accumulation of snow and ice. The plaintiff filed a wrongful death lawsuit against multiple defendants, including the owners of the property that was next to the subject sidewalk. The defendant property owners filed a motion to dismiss, arguing they did not have a duty to maintain a publicly owned sidewalk. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion, and the plaintiff appealed. On appeal, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.
Duty to Maintain Sidewalks in Massachusetts
Upon reviewing the facts of the case, the appellate court noted that it was undisputed that the sidewalk was owned by the city in which it was located and not by the defendant property owners, and that it was a public walkway. Nonetheless, the plaintiff argued the defendant had a duty to refrain from causing dangerous conditions on the sidewalk and that it breached the duty by allowing the accumulation of snow to exist on the sidewalk. The appellate court found that this was insufficient to form the basis of a claim against the defendant.