After four years of litigation, on July 28, 2016, in Bowers v. P. Wiles Inc., the Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”), the highest court in Massachusetts, has finally cleared the way for a jury to hear the case between Linda Bowers and P. Wiles Inc. They have expanded the “mode of operation” exception to premises liability of storeowners, making it easier for plaintiffs to prove that storeowners are liable for the injuries caused by the negligence of other customers.
In December of 2011, the plaintiff, Linda Bowers, fractured her hip when she slipped on a wet river stone on the walkway leading to an Agway garden store in Cape Cod. Agway is owned by P. Wiles Inc. Ms. Bowers sued P. Wiles Inc. for negligence, claiming that Agway knew or should have known that other patrons could dislodge stones, creating a fall risk for customers. Ms. Bowers alleges that Agway did not take reasonable steps to prevent customers from tripping and injuring themselves on these stones. After filing her complaint, P. Wiles moved for summary judgment claiming that Ms. Bowers did not have sufficient evidence to show that Agway had actual or constructive knowledge that the stone was there. In fact, Ms. Bowers had admitted that she did not have evidence to show whether the stone was there long enough for Agway to remedy the situation. Continue reading