Massachusetts Court Discusses Proving Premises Liability Claims

Businesses operated by agents of the federal government are subject to many of the same duties as non-public corporations. For example, if a person suffers harm due to a slip and fall accident at a government facility, the person can pursue premises liability claims against the federal government. In a recent Massachusetts opinion, the court explained what a plaintiff must prove to establish the government’s liability for harm caused by a slip and fall accident. If you were hurt by a dangerous condition on someone else’s property, it is wise to confer with a skillful Massachusetts personal injury attorney to assess your options.

The Plaintiff’s Fall

It is reported that the plaintiff fell while visiting the post office on a rainy day. She suffered bodily injuries and subsequently filed a premises liability claim against the defendant pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (the Act). Following discovery, the defendant moved for summary judgment. After reviewing the evidence, the court denied the defendant’s motion.

Proving Premises Liability Claims Against the Federal Government

Under the Act, the federal government is liable in tort to the same extent and manner as a private person under similar circumstances. Thus, as the plaintiff’s accident occurred in Massachusetts, she had to prove the defendant acted negligently under Massachusetts law.

The court explained that, essentially, negligence is the failure to use the degree of care a reasonable person would employ in a similar situation. As such, to prevail on a claim of negligence, a plaintiff must establish that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty to act with reasonable care, the defendant breached the duty, and damage resulted. The plaintiff also has to demonstrate a causal relationship between the damage and the breach of the duty owed.

Business owners specifically owe invitees a duty to exercise reasonable care to prevent harm caused by the acts of third parties. This includes an obligation to maintain a property in a reasonably safe condition in light of all relevant circumstances, including the risk of harm, the seriousness of potential injuries, and the burden of avoiding the risks.

To prove a business is liable for harm caused by a dangerous condition, a plaintiff must show that the business knew or should have known of the condition and that the plaintiff was unlikely to be able to protect herself against the harm. In the subject case, the court found that there was ample evidence that, at a minimum, there was a dispute as to whether the defendant breached the duties owed to the plaintiff. Thus, the defendant’s motion was denied.

Speak with a Capable Personal Injury Attorney in Massachusetts

Business owners have a duty to prevent customers from suffering harm due to dangerous conditions on their premises, and if they breach their duties, they can be held liable. If you were hurt in a slip and fall accident, personal injury attorney James K. Meehan can advise you of your rights and help you to pursue the full extent of damages recoverable under the law. You can reach us via our form online or at 508-822-6600 to set up a meeting.