Court Discusses Constructive Notice in Massachusetts Slip and Fall Cases

Under Massachusetts law, property owners owe a duty to anyone that legally enters the property to maintain the property in a safe condition. When a property owner fails to comply with its duty and allows foreign objects to remain on the floor, it may cause a slip and fall accident. The Appeals Court of Massachusetts recently analyzed what evidence a person injured in a slip and fall accident caused by debris must produce to prove the property owner had constructive notice of the condition, in a case in which the plaintiff reportedly fell due to gum on a stairway. If you were injured in a slip and fall accident in Massachusetts you should meet with a proficient Massachusetts personal injury attorney to discuss what evidence you need to prove liability for your harm.

Facts of the Case

Reportedly, the plaintiff suffered injuries when she stepped on chewing gum and fell down a flight of stairs in the defendant’s building. She described the gum, which was stuck to the bottom of her shoe, as gray, black, and dirty. She subsequently filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging the defendant negligently failed to clean, inspect, and maintain the stairway. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, which the court granted. The plaintiff then appealed.

Constructive Notice Under Massachusetts Law

Under Massachusetts law, it is well established that a property owner is liable for injuries sustained on its property if the property owner knew or should know of conditions on the property that create an unreasonable risk of harm, and that invitees will either not discover the condition, but fails to protect invitees from the condition despite this knowledge. In cases involving slip and falls, the first element is met if the property owner caused the foreign substance to be on the floor, had actual knowledge of its presence, or if the substance had been on the floor so long that the property owner should have constructive notice of its existence.

In the subject case, the court noted that the plaintiff did not claim that the defendant knew the gum was on the stairs or caused it to be discarded there. Instead, the plaintiff argued that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to the length of time the gum remained on the stairs and whether the defendant should have discovered and removed the gum.

Specifically, the plaintiff argued that the gum was flat and discolored, allowing for the inference that it had been on the stairs long enough for the defendant to discover its presence. The court was not persuaded by this argument, noting that the physical characteristics of the gum, without more, were insufficient to establish constructive notice. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Skilled Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorney to Discuss Your Case

If you were injured in a slip and fall accident you may be able to recover compensation from the property owner and should meet with a skilled Massachusetts personal injury attorney to discuss your case and what evidence you need to prove liability. The capable personal injury attorneys of the Law Office of James K. Meehan will vigorously pursue the full amount of damages you may be able to recover. We can be contacted through our online form or at 508-822-6600 to schedule a confidential and free meeting to discuss your case.