Premises Liability - Unsafe Property and Fall Down Accidents
The attorneys at Law Office of Joseph C. Borsellino, LLC of Dedham, MA represent people who are injured or killed by dangerous conditions and defects on public or private property. Premises liability claims are usually proved against the party who owns and/or controls the property. A skilled lawyer is necessary to identify all potentially liable parties and their roles. Government records will often identify the owner of dangerous property. However, the property is often controlled by one or more other parties. Property owners often hire regional or area property managers to manage their property. Property managers, in turn, often hire local agents who handle the inspection, maintenance, repair, lease and other operation of the property. Contracts between property owners, managers and agents usually allocate responsibilities for keeping the property safe. Attorneys must study these agreements to discover the type and amount of insurance available, who the named and additional insureds are, indemnification provisions and the relative liability of landlords, managers and tenants. Property leases often contain similar important liability information. Finally, attorneys must engage incisive fact analysis to determine whether additional parties may also be responsible for causing properties to become dangerous such as inspectors, contractors or subcontractors, repairmen or public utility companies.
One major category of premises liability claims involves defects in the structure of the property. People are seriously injured by hazardous conditions they have no way of knowing exist and those which may become apparent by observation or investigation. Among the most common structural defects are stairs, floors, electrical or other power sources, roofing and walkways. Most often, property hazards exist due to the combined negligence of two or more parties. An attorney must also learn whether a property is constructed in violation of one or more building codes. A skilled lawyer must work with public officials, architects, experts in the building trades and other property experts to assess liability.
A second major category of premises liability claims involves unsafe conditions which are created or allowed to exist on property. Examples of dangerous conditions include substances on floors, snow and ice and unsafe arrangements of structures. A lawyer must effectively prove not only who was responsible for creating or allowing a hazard, but often how long it existed, who knew or should have known of its existence and who was responsible for reporting and remedying the condition.
A third major category of premises liability claims involves injury caused by dangerous persons or persons engaged in unsafe behaviors on property. Premises liability is often established against property owners or managers who fail to have appropriate human and technological security to guard against foreseeable hazards. These parties may be liable for allowing persons with weapons, under the influence of drugs and alcohol or with criminal propensities onto their property who then injure others.
In general, a landowner owes a duty of reasonable care to all persons lawfully on the premises. Davis v. Westwood Group, 420 Mass. 739, 743, 652 N.E.2d 567 (1995). This includes a duty to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition in view of all the circumstances, including the likelihood of injury to others, the seriousness of the injury, and the burden of avoiding the risk. Mounsey V. Ellard, 363 Mass. 693, 708, 297 N.E.2d 43 (1973) Landowners still owe a duty to remedy an open and obvious danger where that landowner can and should anticipate that the dangerous condition will cause physical harm to the lawful visitor. DOS Santos v. Coleta, 465 Mass. 148, 987 N.E.2d 1187 (Mass., 2013); Papadopoulos v. Target Corp., 457 Mass. 368, 379, 930 N.E.2d 142 (2010); Soederberg v. Concord Greene Condominium Association, 76 Mass.App.Ct. 333, 338, 921 N.E.2d 1020 (2010) (quoting Restatement (Second) of Torts at § 343A comment f).
Massachusetts applies different laws to public and private defendants in premises liability claims. Public defendants enjoy immunities, damage caps and jurisdictional limits. In cases involving government defendants, persons face greater burdens to give statutory notice after they are injured to preserve their rights to recover. A lawyer is necessary to determine whether private parties may be jointly liable for a client’s injuries. In limited circumstances, when a party who owns or controls property causes injury by reckless and willful and wanton behavior, an injured victim may be entitled to punitive (punishment) damages in addition to medical bills, lost earnings and compensatory damages for pain and suffering and disability.
For help in understanding and vindicating your rights in premises liability claims, call the attorneys at Law Office of Joseph C. Borsellino, LLC at 781-329-9500 or complete our contact form.