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Anyone who has lived through a New England winter knows the transportation-related challenges this time of year brings. Whether it happens to be navigating snow-covered roads or traversing icy sidewalks, getting around Massachusetts in the winter is not always easy.

Given the nature of the season, it isn’t surprising that most Massachusetts slip-and-fall accidents occur during the winter season. For the most part, Massachusetts landowners owe those who are invited onto their property a duty of care to keep the property safe. As a 2010 state appellate decision discusses, this includes maintaining the premises free from natural and unnatural accumulations of snow and ice.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff visited a Target store on a cold but clear December morning. Evidently, it had previously snowed, and a maintenance company had plowed the parking lot. The parking lot was mostly cleared of snow, except for a few areas.

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The risk of being involved in a serious Massachusetts car accident either as a motorist or as a pedestrian is always present. However, that risk is at its highest in the winter months. Between the months of December and February in Massachusetts, it snows almost a foot per month. While this may only be the result of a few storms over the course of the month, the result is that roads and sidewalks are often snow-packed or covered in ice.

The conditions can get so bad that recently a local news article reported that on a single day there were 130 accidents – most weather related – in Massachusetts and the along the border of New Hampshire. One of the biggest dangers of a Massachusetts weather-related accident is the likelihood that a single car accident will turn into a chain-reaction accident due to motorists’ inability to come to a stop.

Another news source described a recent accident that resulted in an oil truck tipping over onto its side. Evidently, following the accident several other cars became involved in subsequent accidents because they were unable to stop in time to avoid a collision.

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Last week, on October 26, 2016, around 4:40 P.M., the northbound Orange Line train, while stopped at Back Bay Station in Boston, Massachusetts, began to spew smoke. The train had overheated right before rush hour, and Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (“MBTA”) workers asked passengers to evacuate the station. After the initial panic, which caused riders to break windows of the train to escape, five people had to be treated for smoke inhalation.

The northbound orange line began to leave the Back Bay station when the operations center “was called about a report of a propulsion issue.” This issue resulted in visible smoke to riders onboard the train. With the doors to the train closed, people on the train began to break the windows to escape. In a statement, the MBTA explained that the doors to the train had not been malfunctioning. Instead, the doors were closed because the train was moving away from the station. When the issue was discovered, the “motor person had begun promptly opening doors to allow passengers to evacuate safely, away from (the) live third rail.” However, there was no initial announcement over the intercom of what was occurring, which led a lot of scared people to self-evacuate through the windows. As a result of this chaos, five people were treated for injuries at the station, and three passengers had to be taken to the hospital. Continue reading

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Tragedy struck earlier this week, when a Massachusetts’ woman drove the wrong way on Interstate 495 in Middleborough, killing four college students. The four students who were killed were later identified by Massachusetts’ state police as Kraig A. Diggs, 20, Jordan J. Galvin-Jutras, 19, Jordan J. Fisher, 19, and Cory P. Licata, 18. The female driver, Valantein V. Burson, 31, was also killed in the accident.

On Monday, October 24, 2016, at approximately 12: 11 A.M., Burson, a Stoughton native who counseled troubled teens, was driving her 2011 Infiniti G7, south in the northbound lanes of Interstate 495. She then slammed into a 2003 Mercury sable sedan carrying the four students who were on their way back their Worcester-area colleges. As a result of the impact between the two vehicles, the teen’s vehicle burst into flames.  All four students were pronounced dead at the scene. Continue reading

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Cambridge, Massachusetts – On October 5, 2016, Bernard Lavins, a 60-year-old doctor, was riding his bicycle in Porter Square during rush hour, when he was struck and killed by a tractor-trailer.

Mr. Lavins was struck by a Ryder truck with decals bearing the name Mitlitsky Eggs, a company that is based in Lebanon, Connecticut. He was struck at around 8:00 AM, at the intersection of Massachusetts and Somerville avenues. Cyclists passing by the scene expressed shock and sadness. Cambridge defines itself as a bicycle friendly city, but events like this have shaken cyclists who largely traverse through the city using their bicycles. Continue reading

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In July of 2016, Kyzr Willis, a 7-year-old boy who was participating in a city-sponsored drop day camp, went missing at Carson Beach in South Boston, Massachusetts. Unfortunately, a few hours after he was discovered missing, his body was found in the water. The Boston Police Department (“BPD”) is investigating Kyzr Willis’s death, but has not provided Willis’s family with his autopsy report or returned his personal effects.

Kyzr was one of 56 children who was dropped off on July 26, 2016 at the South Boston’s Center’s for Youth and Families at the Curley Center. The camp ran between 10 AM to 3 PM, Monday through Friday. It was supervised by 25 teenage counselors, two supervisors, and the director of the Curley Center. Carson Beach also had eight lifeguards, two of which were assigned to the section of the beach that was partitioned off specifically for the use of the camp’s children. Unfortunately, neither the camp supervisor nor the two life guards at the beach noticed when Kyzr Willis wandered away from the group.

After Kyzr Willis went missing, the camp called the Boston Police Department, but according to Kyzr Willis’s mother, did not inform her of her son’s disappearance. Instead, her nine-year old niece called her to inform her that Kyzr Willis was missing. A BPD officer reported that the camp counselors were completely unaware of where Kyzr Willis was. As such, BPD  initially focused on a land search, believing that he had wandered off to his home in Dorchester.

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Thursday morning, during the rush hour peak, a New Jersey commuter train plowed full speed into the Hoboken terminal, injuring 114 people. Fabiola Bittar de Kroon, 34, of Hoboken, was killed by falling debris while waiting on the platform for the train’s arrival. She was the only fatality.

Witnesses said the train hurtled through the designated stopping point, slammed into a bumper block, went airborne and drove through a passenger concourse at approximately 8:45 a.m.

Bhagyesh Shah, who was riding in the back of the front car on his way to work, said the train didn’t seem to slow as it entered the station. He further stated, “[t]he next thing I know, I’m on the floor. We are plowing through something … and when the train came to a stop, I could see the parts of the roof on the first car and some of the debris next to me.”

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On September 19, 2016, Middlesex prosecutors charged Bradford Casler, 55 , with two counts of motor vehicle homicide and one count of operating a motor vehicle so as to endanger following the fatal Sweet Tomatoes Crash in Newton, Massachusetts.  Mr. Casler plead not guilty and was released on his own recognizance.

Mr. Casler was the driver of a vehicle that crashed into the popular pizza restaurant Sweet Tomatoes.  With virtually no warning, patrons of the restaurant were unable to jump out of the way in time. As a result, two people, Eleanor Miele, 57, of Watertown, and 32 year-old Gregory D. Morin on Newton were killed. In addition, seven other patrons were also injured.

The Middlesex County prosecutor, Chris Tarrant, stated that witnesses reported that Mr. Casler was speeding on Chestnut Street and failed to brake as he crossed the intersection of Washington.  Mr. Casler was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and had the disease for 27 years, but the State has stated that the do not believe his medical condition affected his ability to drive safely.

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On September 7, 2016, in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, a mother and her infant child miraculously escaped injuries after the brakes in her pick-up truck failed, causing her to slam into three cars stopped at a red light. The mother and infant did not have any visible injuries, although these kinds of accidents could still cause concussive injuries that are difficult to ascertain until much later. In this case, both the individual driving the pick-up truck and the motorists who were hit due to the brake failure can bring a products liability claim against the manufacturer of the motor vehicle for the defective braking system.

 

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On August 3, 2016, nearly forty years after its first incident of sexual abuse, St. George, a Rhode Island boarding school, settled suit with 30 former students, whose accounts of sexual abuse were either ignored or outright disbelieved by the school. Unfortunately, horrific stories like these are all too common throughout the country, even in Massachusetts and other preparatory schools in New England. While it is impossible to fully compensate minor victims of sexual abuse, survivors may still recover damages from schools that failed to protect children from sexual offenses carried out by staff members at these institutions.

St. George is an elite private boarding school in Rhode Island, which opened its doors to girls around the 1970s. During that time, the school hired a field hockey coach who later became responsible for carrying out terrible abuses on teenage girls. One of the first victims, Anne Scott, sued the school about a decade after the incident. However, she dropped her suit when the school’s attorney argued that Ms. Scott was lying or that she had consensual sex with the then 67-year-old Al Gibbs, the school’s athletic trainer. Years later, more survivors reported abuses at the prep school from Gibbs and other faculty members. The school acknowledged that it mistreated the reports and failed to report the incidents to the appropriate authorities, which was required by law. Continue reading