Massachusetts Court Rules a Contractor’s Death is not a Foreseeable Risk of a Homeowner’s Breach of the Duty to Obtain a Permit for Building Construction

Most personal injury claims assert a theory of liability based on negligence. Parties alleging negligence must prove a duty, a breach of the duty, and causation to recover on their claims. To show causation, a plaintiff must set forth sufficient evidence to show that the harm sustained was a foreseeable result of any alleged breach. In Almeida v. Pinto,  the Court of Appeals found that the tenuous connection between the injuries the plaintiff sustained and the defendant’s breach was insufficient to permit the plaintiff’s case to proceed.  If you suffered injuries due to someone else’s negligence, you should consult a seasoned Massachusetts personal injury attorney to analyze the facts of your case and whether you should seek damages.

Factual Scenario

Allegedly the defendants hired a contractor to install vinyl siding on the second and third floor of their residence. The defendants paid the contractor $200.00 which was the price suggested by the contractor. The contractor began the installation without a helmet, harness, or any other safety equipment. He fell from a ladder and struck his head and ultimately passed away from his injuries. The plaintiff, who was the administrator of the contractor’s estate, subsequently filed a lawsuit against the defendants, alleging their negligence led to the contractor’s death. The defendants moved for summary judgment, and the court granted the motion. The plaintiff appealed, and the appellate court affirmed.

Evidence of Breach and Causation

The court noted that the issues of duty and causation were appropriate for disposition via summary judgment. Here, the plaintiff alleged the defendants breached a duty owed to the contractor by failing to provide safety equipment, paying the contractor a low price, failing to comply with OSHA regulations, and failing to obtain a permit for the project. The court found that there was no evidence to impose a duty on homeowners to provide safety equipment and refused to find the defendants at fault for accepting the low price offered by the contractor.

Further, the court held that OSHA regulations do not apply to homeowners who hire a contractor, and therefore, the defendants could not be held liable for failing to comply with such regulations. Lastly, the court noted that while the defendants did breach the duty to obtain a permit prior to authorizing work on their house, the breach of the duty did not cause the contractor’s injuries or subsequent death. The court was not persuaded that the permit process would have alerted the building department to alleged dangers in completing the project noting the plaintiff did not produce any evidence in support of her contention.  As such, the court held the plaintiff did not produce any evidence the contractor’s death was a foreseeable risk of the defendants’ failure to obtain a permit, and therefore, affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Seasoned Massachusetts Attorney Specializing in Personal Injury

If you suffered an injury due to the negligence of another person or entity, you may be able to recover compensation. You should consult a skilled personal injury attorney to evaluate the facts of your case and help you formulate a plan to pursue damages. At the Law Office of James K. Meehan, our personal injury attorneys will aggressively advocate on your behalf to help you recover compensation for your injuries. Contact us at 508-822-6600 or via our online form to schedule a meeting.

Additional Blog Posts:

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Massachusetts Supreme Court Declines to Hold Hospital Liable for Harm Caused by a Psychiatric Patient Released by a Hospital Physician November 21, 2018, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog

Under Massachusetts Law Parties Cannot Waive the Right to Recover for Gross Negligence September 6, 2018, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog