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.
Apparently, the plaintiff pulled into a “handicapped” parking space and exited his vehicle. The snow plow had deposited a large amount of snow in the median adjacent to the plaintiff’s parking spot, leaving some remaining chunks of snow and ice scattered on the ground. The plaintiff made it into the store without a problem. However, upon returning to his car, the plaintiff tripped and fell on a chunk of ice that had frozen to the ground. The plaintiff filed a Massachusetts premises liability lawsuit against Target and the landscaping company.
At the time when this case was heard, Massachusetts law distinguished between natural and unnatural accumulations of snow and ice. Under the law at the time, a landowner was not responsible for clearing natural accumulations of snow or ice, and could only be held liable for injuries that were caused by unnatural accumulations. The plaintiff argued that the court should abolish the distinction between natural and unnatural accumulations.
The Court’s Decision
The court agreed with the plaintiff, allowing his case to proceed toward trial. In a lengthy and detailed opinion, the court outlined the original justification for the distinction between natural and unnatural accumulations, as well as the main argument for doing away with the distinction. Ultimately, the court found the latter more convincing and held that, regardless of the origin of snow or ice, a landowner owes visitors a duty to exercise reasonable care. The court explained that what may be reasonable for the owner of a single-family home may be different from the owner of an apartment complex or commercial shopping center. By implementing the reasonable-care standard, the court brought this area of the law in line with other areas of Massachusetts premises liability law.
Have You Been Injured in a Winter Slip-and-Fall Accident?
If you or someone you care about has recently been injured in a Boston slip-and-fall accident, contact the dedicated Massachusetts personal injury lawyers at the Bellotti Law Group. At the Bellotti Law Group, we represent Massachusetts injury victims in all types of injury claims, including Boston slip-and-fall accidents. To learn more about how we can help you pursue a claim for compensation based on the injuries you have sustained, call 617-225-2100 to schedule a free consultation today. Calling is free, and we will not bill you for our services unless we can help you recover for your injuries.
See Additional Blog Posts:
Boston Orange Line Overheats, Leading to Smoke Inhalation Injuries, Boston Injury Attorney Blog, November 6, 2016.
Massachusetts Wrong-Way Crash Kills Five People, Boston Injury Attorney Blog, November 6, 2016.