Massachusetts Court of Appeals Issues Encouraging Opinion for Delivery Man Injured at Airport

When an accident occurs in Massachusetts, it is not always immediately clear who should be held accountable for the injuries. Sometimes multiple parties are jointly liable, and other times one party may initially appear liable before being absolved through the litigation process or trial verdict. For example, if someone is injured by tripping on an object in a shopping mall, there may be liability due to the negligence of an employee of one particular store. This may be shared by the owner of the entire premises because a separate maintenance employee failed to clear the obstruction. Juries often divide liability, as well as the percentage of damages paid to the injured party, so it is important to file suit against all possible responsible entities.

In any situation, there may be additional relevant statutes that limit the amount of time an injured person has to provide notice of her or his intent to sue. The Appeals Court of Massachusetts recently issued an opinion, Landry vs. Mass. Port Auth. (15-P-253), which reviewed a delivery man’s action against two municipal entities for injuries he sustained at the regional airport. In this suit, the defendants jointly filed for dismissal, pointing to G. L. c. 84, § 18, which requires notice to file suit against a municipal entity within 30 days, if the injury happened in a right of way.

The deliveryman had been making deliveries of cleaned uniforms to the airport for several years, often with airport employees escorting him through the gates to his drop-off point. In the year before the accident, this procedure changed, and he was directed to park his truck in a certain location and walk through a remote-controlled gate to his drop-off point. On the date of his injury, the gate was partially opened but abruptly stopped after opening 3-4 feet. After waiting for some time, without further instructions from someone controlling the remote, he proceeded through the opening with the uniforms over his shoulder. He did not have much clearance to make it through, since a steel bar that was part of the gate was also in the way. The gate began to close while he was walking, causing him to suffer a fractured sternum. The man could not work for two months. The delivery man later learned from airport employees that this mechanized gate had been malfunctioning for a while.

The appellate court, while conceding this appeal was not properly before it, decided to write on the underlying merits of the summary judgment pursued by the defendants. The court felt the motion was properly denied by the trial court, determining that the defendants relied too much on the application of G. L. c. 84, § 18. The court felt that the facts did not support calling the gate a “way” like a road or sidewalk, since it was not a public route of transit. The court also felt that the issue of liability was one of fact and not law. The appellate court reasoned it is possible for a fact-finder to hold the operator of the gate responsible for improperly maintaining or operating the remote controlled parts. The court ultimately opined that neither defendant was entitled to summary judgment, providing a favorable opinion for the injured person as he continued his suit.

Having experienced Massachusetts personal injury attorneys at your side can make all the difference in the outcome of your premises liability case. The attorneys at the Law Office of James K. Meehan understand that every bit of financial assistance helps, and we will tirelessly seek to maximize the damages you receive. For a free consultation, call our office today at 508.822.6600.

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Rear-end Collision Appellate Case Helps Illustrate Burden of Proof Considerations in Massachusetts Personal Injury Cases, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog, February 3, 2016