Slip and Fall Suit at Massachusetts Bowling Alley Discusses Evidence Needed in Personal Injury Litigation

Under Massachusetts law, business owners owe a duty to the patrons frequenting their stores to keep their premises reasonably safe. If a condition is present that caused a customer or guest to trip or slip and fall, the owner may be responsible for the related expenses incurred as a result of the condition. Liability exists when the owner knew or should have known about the accident-causing condition. In all personal injury actions, the victim must show that a duty existed between the at-fault party and the victim, that the at-fault party failed to keep that duty, that the breach resulted in an accident, and that damages arose.

In Finnegan vs. Kingpin Entertainment, Inc. (14-P-1293), a bowler and his wife filed suit, claiming that the bowling alley failed to uphold their duty to keep the premises safe for their guests. Specifically, the bowler and his wife alleged that the bowling alley used too much oil on the surface of the bowing lane, and this excess oil caused him to fall on the slippery surface. The bowler ruptured his hamstring, and the wife claimed she suffered a loss of consortium as a result of her husband’s injury. The trial court judge granted the defendant bowling alley’s motion for summary judgment, which argued that the couple did not have enough evidence to show that the bowling alley failed in its duty to keep the premises safe for its patrons.

In personal injury litigation, after a case is filed, information is exchanged and formal allegations may be made that claim or deny that there is enough evidence to present to a jury, or fact-finder, on the question of whether or not the defendant was negligent. In Finnegan, the evidence differed between each side on whether or not the bowling alley used excessive oil to keep the floors conditioned. The bowling alley claimed that they followed the appropriate procedure for oiling the lanes, leaving an eight-inch “buffer zone” between the foul line and the application of oil in the lanes. The plaintiffs presented evidence that included an inspection of the lanes after the accident in which “fluid drops” were observed in the “buffer zone” area.

The appellate court agreed with the trial court’s determination that there was not enough evidence to leave a question of negligence for the jury. The court looked to the testimony of the bowler and other members of the bowling party who did not observe any problems “anywhere with the surface” and did not see any “foreign substance in the area.” There was also no testimony of other problems with footing, slipping, or complaints about the surface. The court felt the only testimony that reflected the allegations against the bowling alley was the testimony of the bowler, who said that he felt “something very slippery” but had “no idea of what it was” after he put his hands down after the fall. Even with those statements, the court felt that it came short of presenting a question of negligence and affirmed the lower court’s ruling.

The Massachusetts injury attorneys at the Law Office of James K. Meehan are the experienced litigators you need to aggressively pursue the damages you deserve. For a free, confidential consultation, contact us at 508.822.6600.

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