Slip and Fall Injuries

Posted On February 28, 2018 by Murphy Law Group in Personal Injury

New England weather can be anything but predictable.  We have seen snow fall before Halloween and unexpected blizzards after Easter. The best thing you can do to prepare for a New England winter is to pick up your belongings and catch the next flight to Florida or Aruba, but for those who wish to endure the long winter months at home it is important to understand Massachusetts’ laws about clearing snow and ice from your property.

Slip and Fall Injuries

The statistics regarding injuries due to slipping and falling on ice in the United States are shocking. Each year, over one third of adults in the United States suffer serious injuries due to slipping and falling on ice. Roughly 600,000 adults are hospitalized due to these injuries, and nearly 20,000 adults will die due to these injuries.

To ensure these injuries don’t happen on your property, it is never too early to begin preparation for New England winters. With that in mind, Massachusetts has minimum standards for property owners to bear in mind with respect to clearing snow and ice from their respective properties.

Massachusetts Laws on Clearing Snow

Both landlords and tenants should know their responsibilities when it comes to snow and ice removal.  Pursuant to 105 CMR 410. 452, property owners shall maintain all means of egress at all times in a safe, operable condition,  and they shall keep all exterior stairways, fire escapes, egress balconies, and bridges free of snow and ice. However, if a dwelling has an independent means of egress, not shared with other occupants, an occupant can be held responsible for keeping that area free of snow and ice, but you need a written agreement outlining the occupant’s responsibilities.

Essentially, an owner or a tenant, dependent on their mutual agreement, must keep the property in reasonably safe conditions when hit with snow and ice conditions.

Liability Concerns for Property Owners

Prior to 2010, Massachusetts’ property owners could only be held liable for injuries in slip and fall cases caused by the “unnatural” accumulation of snow or ice. In the case of Emmanuel Papadopoulos & another vs. Target Corporation & another, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled for the abolishment of the long-standing distinction between “natural” and “unnatural” accumulations of snow and ices in slip and fall cases.

Papadopoulos v. Target 457 Mass. 368 (2010)

In the case of Papadopoulos v. Target, the plaintiff slipped and fell on ice while walking through the parking lot of a Target store. A plow had come through the parking lot previously and piled snow onto a median. The snow dripped off the median and formed the ice puddle that the plaintiff slipped on. The court ruled that the ice had come off the median “naturally,” as snow piles have the tendency to drip.

Papadopoulos’ appeal of the decision spurred the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to reject the long-standing distinction between “natural” and “unnatural” accumulations of snow and ice in slip and fall cases. The Supreme Judicial Court concluded that regardless of the type of accumulation of snow and ice (“natural” or “unnatural”), a landowner owes a duty to maintain its property in a reasonably safe condition given the circumstances, and should treat the condition no differently than he would in any other liability action.

Time Limits for Personal Injury Claims

The statute of limitations for torts in Massachusetts is 3 years.  However, an injured party should place the person or Mass. Gen. Laws chapter 84, sections18-20 state a person must notify the county, city, or town of injury or damage from snow or ice on a public way within 30 days. Similarly, Mass. Gen. Laws chapter 84, section 21 states a person must notify the owner of private property of injury or damage from snow or ice on their premises within 30 days.

In each instance, whether public or private, the injured person shall report the said injury within 30 days with notice of a name and place of residence of the person injured, the time, place and cause of said injury or damage; and if the said county, city, town or person does not pay the amount thereof, he may recover the same in an action of tort if brought within three years after the date of such injury or damage.

Understanding Slip and Fall Lawsuits

Whether you are a victim or a potential defendant, it is important to gather as much information as quickly and efficiently as possible.  Photographs and witness statements can be essential to proving a case.  Just because the statute of limitations for cases is three years does not mean that you should sit idly and wait before filing suit.

Obtaining Legal Help

If you have been involved in a slip and fall accident, contact the Murphy Law Group today at (978) 686-3200.   The Murphy Law Group has extensive experience in litigating slip and fall cases in Boston, North Andover and the surrounding Merrimack Valley areas.