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Massachusetts Court Discusses a Landlord’s Liability for Failing to Remove Snow and Ice

In Massachusetts, landlords generally owe a duty of care to their tenants to maintain their rental property in a reasonably safe condition, which includes ensuring that snow and ice are cleared from any common area. If a landlord fails to properly clear snow and ice from a property, and a tenant suffers injuries in a slip and fall accident, the landlord may be liable for negligence. As explained in a recent Massachusetts appellate court case, however, a landlord cannot be held liable for breach of the implied warranty of habitability for injuries caused by the failure to remove snow and ice. If you suffered injuries in a slip and fall accident at your rental property, you should speak to a Massachusetts personal injury attorney regarding your potential claims.

Facts Surrounding the Plaintiff’s Harm

It is reported that the plaintiff lived in a house he rented from the defendant. In 2010, the plaintiff sustained severe injuries when he slipped and fell due to snow and ice in the house’s driveway. He subsequently filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging negligence, breach of the implied warranty of habitability, and violation of the covenant of quiet enjoyment. The jury found that the plaintiff’s negligence exceeded the negligence of the defendant and therefore declined to award the plaintiff damages under the negligence claim. Additionally, based on the jury’s findings, the judge ruled that the plaintiff could not recover under any other theory of liability. The plaintiff appealed, arguing that because the defendant was deemed negligent, he violated the covenant of quiet enjoyment and breached the implied warranty of habitability as a matter of law.

A Landlord’s Liability for Failing to Remove Snow and Ice

Under Massachusetts law, a plaintiff who is injured in a slip and fall accident caused by a defendant’s failure to exercise due care in the removal of snow and ice may recover under a theory of negligence against the defendant, unless the plaintiff is over fifty percent responsible for his or her own injuries. Similarly, the implied warranty of habitability is an implied warranty in residential leases that the premises will be suitable as a dwelling for a human and will remain suitable throughout the duration of the lease.

In the subject case, the appellate court declined to adopt the plaintiff’s reasoning that the implied warranty of habitability allows an injured tenant to pursue a tort claim against a landlord. Rather, the appellate court found that when a person suffers injuries due to a slip and fall on snow or ice in a common area, the person is limited to recovering damages under a tort claim for negligence, and cannot pursue a breach of contract claim under the implied warranty of habitability. The appellate court also ruled that under the facts of the case, the plaintiff could not recover under his claim for violation of the covenant of quiet enjoyment. Thus, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Dedicated Personal Injury Attorney

If you suffered injuries in a slip and fall accident, it is prudent to speak to an attorney to determine what damages you may be able to recover in a civil lawsuit. The dedicated  Massachusetts personal injury attorneys of Karsner & Meehan are adept at helping injured parties seek just results and we will work tirelessly to help you strive for a favorable outcome. We can be reached via our form online or at 508-822-6600 to set up a meeting.

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