Massachusetts Court Discusses Insurer’s Liability for Injuries on Insured Properties

Property owners generally have a duty to protect people that lawfully enter their buildings from encountering dangerous conditions. If they fail to do so, and people suffer harm as a result, they can be held liable for damages in a civil lawsuit. The duty to protect business invitees from harm does not extend to insurers of the property, however, as discussed in a recent opinion issued in a Massachusetts premises liability matter. If you suffered injuries on another party’s property, you might be owed compensation, and you should speak to a Massachusetts personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

The Plaintiff’s Harm

Allegedly, the plaintiff worked as a plumber. When he was servicing a boiler at a property, he fell into a sump hole in the basement that contained scalding water. When the boiler was installed in 2001, pipes were connected to the drain valves of the boiler to allow the sump to collect water drained away from the boiler. Following his accident, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit naming the companies that provided insurance and reinsurance for the premises and the adjuster who worked for the insurance company that performed an inspection of the boiler in 2015 as defendants.

It is reported that, essentially, the plaintiff alleged that the defendants had a duty to identify the risks posed by the open sump as part of the inspection. The defendants moved for summary judgment, and the trial court ruled in their favor. The plaintiff appealed, and on appeal, the trial court ruling was affirmed.

Liability of Property Insurers

The court noted that to prevail on his claims, the plaintiff was required to show that the adjuster was negligent. In other words, he had to show that the adjuster owed him a duty of reasonable care, the defendant breached the duty, and that he suffered damage that was caused by the breach. The trial court found, however, that the plaintiff could not establish duty and causation.

The appellate court explained that duty is an apportionment of risk that is determined by balancing the foreseeability of harm, in light of the circumstances, against the burden that would be imposed. Whether a party owes a duty of care to someone else is a legal question, answered by referring to existing social values, social policy, and customs. In the subject case, the plaintiff argued that the defendants owed him a statutory duty, a contractual duty, and a common law duty to inspect the pump. The court rejected his arguments and found that the defendants did not owe any duty to the plaintiff. As such, it affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Skillful Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorney

Many property owners negligently allow harmful conditions to exist on their premises, which often results in significant injuries. If you were hurt in an accident on someone else’s property, you have the right to seek compensation, and you should speak to an attorney about your possible claims. Skillful personal injury lawyer James K. Meehan can set forth compelling arguments on your behalf, to help you seek the best result available under the facts of your case. You can contact us via our online form or at 508-822-6600 to set up a meeting.