Massachusetts homeowners now risk being sued for slip-and-fall accidents due to snow and ice due to a new ruling by the state’s Supreme Judicial Court. Under the new law, homeowners are legally responsible for clearing any snow or ice that could cause injury to others.
A Landmark Slip-and-Fall Decision
An article in the Boston Globe notes that the decision came about as the result of a lawsuit filed by Emanuel Papadopoulos against the Target store company and the Weiss Landscape Co.
Hired to clear snow and ice from the Target property at Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers in 2002, the Weiss Landscape Co. piled up a bank of snow near a handicapped parking space. This snow melted and froze into ice.
Mr. Papadopoulos, a 76-year-old man from Peabody, slipped on the ice and broke his hip. He then sued the two companies for damages.
Overruling the Lower Courts
Lower courts had ruled in favor of Target and Weiss Landscape, based on rules that made a distinction between artificial and natural ice, but the higher court overturned them. The Supreme Judicial Court stated in its ruling:
“We now will apply to hazards arising from snow and ice the same obligation that a property owner owes to lawful visitors as to all other hazards: a duty to ‘act as a reasonable person under all of the circumstances including the likelihood of injury to others, the probable seriousness of such injuries, and the burden of reducing or avoiding the risk.’ ’’
The Supreme Judicial Court stated the ruling will be put into effect immediately and will also apply retroactively to lawsuits now pending.
The Question of Property Law
If you have any questions about property law and how this ruling might affect your slip-and-fall case, contact the attorneys Robert Mazow and Kevin McCullough at Mazow|McCullough, PC for a free legal consultation. We are here to help.