Massachusetts Court Denies Summary Judgment in Slip and Fall Case

Fast food restaurants handle a high number of customers per day, and it is not uncommon for there to be debris or spills on their floors. It seems inevitable, then, that people would be injured in slip and fall accidents in their establishments. In many instances, a person injured in an accident at a business will seek damages from the owner. In a recent Massachusetts opinion, the court discussed what a party alleging liability for a slip and fall accident at a fast-food restaurant must prove to recover damages. If you were injured in a fall, it is advisable to speak to a trusted Massachusetts personal injury lawyer to evaluate what claims you may be able to pursue.

The Plaintiff’s Fall

It is alleged that the plaintiff went to eat lunch at the defendant fast food restaurant. She ordered her food, received her order, and sat down. She then proceeded to walk to the condiment counter while using a cane when she slipped in a puddle of an identified liquid which caused her to slip and fall. The liquid soaked through her clothes, but she did not know what kind of substance it was or how long it had been on the floor.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, alleging it negligently failed to maintain the property in a safe condition. The defendant argued the plaintiff could not prove it breached a duty owed to her and filed a motion for summary judgment, which the court ultimately denied.

Proving Liability for a Slip and Fall Accident

The plaintiff argued that either under the mode of operation approach or the traditional approach of premises liability, there were sufficient factual disputes to preclude summary judgment, and the court agreed. The court explained that, under the traditional approach, when a visitor to a business falls and sustains injuries due to a foreign substance on the floor, the injured party may prove that the business owner was negligent by showing that it caused the dangerous substance to be there, or that the business had actual knowledge of the presence of the substance. More commonly, however, the injured party will attempt to prove liability by demonstrated that the substance was present for such a duration that the business owner should have been aware of it.

Under the mode of operation approach, an injured party can establish liability by showing that an owner’s chosen mode of operation makes it relatively foreseeable that a dangerous condition will occur. Therefore, a business owner can be found negligent for failing to take reasonable precautions to protect people from the condition. In the subject case, the court found that under either approach, the defendant failed to demonstrate that summary judgment was warranted and denied the motion.

Meet with a Trusted Personal Injury Attorney

Slip and fall accidents can cause painful and debilitating injuries, and they are often caused by negligently maintained properties. If you were hurt in an accident caused by a business owner’s carelessness, the trusted personal injury attorneys of the Law Office of James K. Meehan can assist you in gathering the facts and evidence needed to pursue the full amount of damages recoverable under the law. You can contact us via our form online or at 508-822-6600 to set up a conference.