Articles Posted in Premises Liability

Homeowner testing smoke alarm

Protect your family and home. Test your smoke alarms when you set the clocks back for Daylight Saving Time on Nov. 7.

Stay vigilant about smoke alarms and protect your family this winter. This coming Sunday – November 7th – Daylight Saving Time ends. As you set your clocks back, we encourage you to also test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

It is critical that your smoke alarms work as we approach winter, when we spend more time indoors, cook for the holidays and there is a greater risk for home fires and fire injuries.

Half of All Massachusetts Fire Deaths Occur in Homes Without Working Smoke Alarms

In 2020, half of all Massachusetts fire deaths occurred in homes without working smoke alarms, the state fire marshal’s office announced earlier this year. This was based on preliminary data.

End-of-year data showed there were 29,641 fires across Massachusetts in 2020, a 16 percent increase over 2019. The number of civilian deaths rose from 39 in preliminary data to 44, up from 42 in 2019. There were 245 civilian injuries and 594 fire service injuries in 2020. Smoking was the leading cause of residential fire deaths in Massachusetts, followed by electrical and cooking fires.

The traditional reminder has been to replace your home’s smoke alarm batteries twice a year – at the start and end of Daylight Saving Time. You should still do so if your smoke alarms operate on regular batteries.

But in 2016, the state of Massachusetts updated the fire safety requirements, steering more homeowners toward newer smoke alarms designed to last 10 years without a battery change. So not everyone needs to change their smoke alarm batteries.

Testing is still essential. If a fire breaks out, you may have seconds to escape and your smoke alarm has to work for you, your family, loved ones and roommates. Commit to test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors monthly and twice a year when you change the clocks for Daylight Saving Time. This is a simple step – just press the test button.

Read Your Product Manual and Learn the Sounds of Your Smoke Alarm

Read your smoke alarm product manual. Make sure you recognize how the alarm sounds – when it chirps to alert you of failing batteries and in an actual emergency.  If you do not know, search for the product information online or call the manufacturer. The Massachusetts State Fire Marshal’s office also shared safety tips as part of Fire Prevention Week earlier this month. The theme was “Learn the Sounds of Fire Safety,” the sound of your smoke alarms.

Involve other family members in this, especially older adults. Those 65 and older are highly vulnerable when fires break out, accounting for more than 40 percent of all fire deaths in Massachusetts during 2020, according to the state fire marshal’s office. Older adults may seem healthy, but they may suffer from a medical condition they haven’t shared or side effects to medication. Another potential barrier is untreated hearing loss.

One in three people between age 65 and 74 suffer from hearing loss, according to the National Institute on Aging. When they get older, nearly half of all adults age 75 and older have difficulty hearing. Step in and help older adults. Offer to take them to their primary care doctor and learn about smoke alarms for those who are deaf or have difficulty hearing.

Check for Smoke Alarm Recalls

Unfortunately, like other products, there are times when smoke alarms are recalled due to defect.  In May 2020, the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced the recall of more than 220,000 Kidde TrueSense Smoke Alarms and Combination Smoke/Carbon Monoxide Alarms. These alarms were newer models, sold between May 2019 and September 2020.

When you test the batteries at Daylight Saving Time, you can check the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website for smoke alarm recalls. Take time for this, even if you have registered your smoke alarm with the manufacturer. While you are there, check for product recalls involving unsafe winter heating products, including electric blankets, space heaters, children’s pajamas and other products. This is an easy but important step for safety. If you own any of these products, take the recall seriously. Remove the defective product from your home now so no one reaches for it on a cold night.

One Survey: Many Americans Are Not Testing Smoke Alarm Batteries

While this is a simple step, not everyone is testing smoke alarms. Earlier this year, a Consumer Reports survey found roughly one-third of all Americans could not recall when they last tested their home’s smoke alarm. About 25 percent could not recall replacing their smoke alarm batteries, while more than half could not remember when they had installed the devices. But this doesn’t have to be the case. You can easily test your smoke alarm and pull out the product materials right now.

About Breakstone, White & Gluck – Boston Personal Injury Lawyers

At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our Boston personal injury lawyers have over 100 years combined experience representing those injured in premises liability accidents, construction accidents, structure fires and fires caused by landlord neglect. Our attorneys have represented clients, including college students, tenants and their families after serious injuries and wrongful death in fires.

If you or a loved one have been injured or killed in a fire, learn your legal rights. Contact our attorneys at Breakstone, White & Gluck at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.

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Young girl playing in a swimming pool with a beach ball.Over the past year, many of us have missed out on seeing friends and loved ones. If you are planning a summer gathering to make up for lost time, we urge you to consider water safety, especially if you own a backyard swimming pool.

With Massachusetts schools about to start summer break, there is a high level of distraction in many homes. Households may have family members working remotely and summer may add to the unpredictable schedules we established during the COVID-19 emergency. But you must be vigilant if you own a pool because the risk for injury is very real. One can drown quickly, in a matter of seconds, and those injured are often young children.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), an average of 397 children were killed in swimming pool or spa submersions each year from 2016 to 2018. These children were all under 15 years old. During the same period, there was also an annual average of 6,200 children under 15 treated at hospitals for non-fatal injuries associated with pool or spa submersions.

Already in Massachusetts this year, we have seen several lives lost or nearly lost to drownings in swimming pools, ponds and lakes. In this blog, we focus on how homeowners can reduce the risk for injury and drowning in backyard swimming pools, and their legal responsibilities.

Massachusetts Property Owners Have a Duty to Use Reasonable Care

In Massachusetts, homeowners have a responsibility to use reasonable care to keep their property in reasonably safe condition. When it comes to swimming pools, a property owner’s duty starts with following Massachusetts building regulations to secure pools. They must also maintain safe areas around pools.

It is paramount that Massachusetts homeowners also exercise caution with alcohol. Homeowners can reduce the risk for many drownings and injuries by simply limiting their own alcohol consumption and that of all their guests of legal drinking age. Minors should never be allowed to consume alcohol or a homeowner can face criminal charges and a civil lawsuit if someone is injured.

Secure Your Swimming Pool With Strong Fencing

Pool fencing and pool ladder.

In Massachusetts, the state building code requires property owners to secure swimming pools behind 4-foot high fencing. There are different specifications for above-ground and underground pools, along with pools that use one side of the home as part of the fence.

Pools must be secured with locking devices that face outward away from the pool. The locks must be self-closing and self-latching.

Keep Pool Areas Free From Hazards

Be aware of other potential hazards beyond your actual pool. Your pool area may have outdoor furniture, rafts and floats, a diving board or a slide. One way to prevent a pool-related injury is to limit pool accessories. Secure the products you buy out of sight when you are not using your pool.

We caution you about purchasing diving boards and slides. Accidents involving these products can be serious, resulting in a head injury or a spinal cord injury, which can lead to long-term disability or death. Many homeowners have decided these are just not worth the potential safety risk.

Recognize that these products can be poorly designed or incorrectly installed. A product may not be the right fit for your pool design or reliably support your guests, even if it meets CPSC safety standards. However, if you choose to make a purchase, you should always hire an experienced pool professional to assist you with installation and your homeowner’s insurance agent to make sure your policy provides coverage.

Protect Young Children

Young child at risk for falling and drowning in a backyard swimming pool.In Massachusetts, property owners are responsible for securing pools from young children. Property owners can be held liable for drowning or other injuries suffered by young children, whether they are invited guests or are trespassing. The law recognizes that young children may not understand when they approach a potential hazard. As a property owner, think about how your pool looks from the street, from your yard and from inside your home. Bright-colored rafts and large crowds can quickly capture a child’s attention. Then think about how you have secured your pool.

Keep Gatherings Small

When you invite guests over, keep gatherings small so you can observe the pool area and enjoy the company.

Closely Monitor Guests Near Your Swimming Pool

Never invite anyone over to your home to use your swimming pool when you are not there or are engaged in another activity, such as work. Ask if adult guests know how to swim and if children have attended swimming lessons.

If you have young children, commit to watch them and any friends they invite over closely, even if they are not using your pool. Limit the size of gatherings so you can give the children your full attention.

Make the same commitment to safety if you are the parent of a teenager, even if you normally give them more freedom. Set summer rules and make sure your teen understands: they can only have friends over when you are home and gatherings should be kept small. They should always ask before using the swimming pool and you will not permit alcohol.

Whenever you have any guests over, check that your pool is fully secured before they arrive. Not just from outside, but also from guests and children in your home and backyard. Once your guests arrive, it can help to utilize a pool camera, sounding alarm or other technology, even if no one is using the pool. You can also take the low-tech approach of sitting outside where you can see both the pool and the gate. This step shows your guests and children you are truly committed to safety and want them to have fun, but also act responsibly so everyone gets home safely.

Restrict Alcohol Consumption by Your Guests; Never Allow Teens to Drink At Your Home

Massachusetts homeowners have a responsibility not to allow underage drinking in their swimming pool or elsewhere on their property.Carefully consider whether you want to allow your guests to consume alcohol in your home, especially when they come over to swim or are driving. This decision comes with a lot of responsibility. The easiest approach is to not allow alcohol consumption. If you do allow your guests to drink, practice moderation and good judgment. Never let them drive home under the influence.

As for swimming, remember that alcohol and pools are a dangerous combination. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol use is involved in up to 70 percent of deaths associated with all water recreation. Drinking beer or liquor in the warm weather can contribute to dehydration, which can raise the risk for drowning and submersion injuries.

Massachusetts recognizes social host liability. There can be serious consequences for bad decisions. Homeowners can face criminal charges, including jail time, if they allow minors under 21 to consume alcohol at their home or any property they control, under M.G.L. c. 138 § 34 . Parents can also be criminally charged and convicted if police can prove they left their home and were aware minors were consuming alcohol there in their absence. Minors can also be criminally charged.

In addition to criminal charges, a homeowner can also face a civil lawsuit from those injured as a result of a minor’s alcohol consumption at their home.

Limit Cell Phone Use and Distractions

One can easily become distracted by an email, text or social media and this can be dangerous if you have a pool. If you are checking your cell phone, you could miss the moment someone needs your help. Every second counts when it comes to saving someone from drowning. The best approach is to limit cell phone use and enjoy your guests. Keep both your home and cell phone nearby, but for emergencies only.

Free Legal Consultation – Boston Personal Injury Attorneys

At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our attorneys provide aggressive representation and are committed to achieving the best result for clients. Founded in 1992, our personal injury law firm specializes in representing those injured by the negligence or wrongdoing of others and our attorneys have been consistently recognized by Super Lawyers and Best Lawyers in America. We have won numerous record-setting verdicts and settlements in negligence, product liability and medical malpractice cases in Massachusetts. We offer safety tips as part of our Project KidSafe campaign, through which we work to prevent injuries to children and families.

If you or a family member has been injured, learn your legal rights. We represent clients across Massachusetts, including in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Quincy, the North and South Shores, Cape Cod, Worcester and Central Massachusetts. For a free legal consultation, contact one of our Boston personal injury lawyers at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.

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Man Clearing Snow From Path With ShovelAfter our first nor’easter of the season, much of Massachusetts is now covered in a cold sheet of snow and ice. A total of 12.5 inches fell last weekend in part of Worcester County, while Middlesex County saw 2 to 7 inches of accumulation, according to MassLive.

You may have shoveled, yet the work isn’t over. In these harsh New England winters, property owners must remember their legal responsibility to use reasonable care to keep their property safe. If you neglect to remove snow and ice from your driveway, someone could be injured and you could be held financially liable.

Commit to inspecting your property daily after a snow storm. Insect your driveway, walkways, roof and gutters.  Go outside and walk from your front door to the end of your driveway and back. This is how your guests, mail carriers and package delivery professionals approach your home. This route needs to be safe.

A Property Owner’s Responsibility in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, property owners have a duty to use reasonable care in clearing snow and ice so no one is injured. Papadopoulos v. Target Corp., 457 Mass. 368 (2010).

Papadopoulos v. Target Corp. changed more than 100 years of common law in Massachusetts and abolished the distinction between “natural” and “unnatural” snow and ice accumulations in premises liability actions. Property owners now have a duty to use the same reasonable care in treating snow and ice as they do other property hazards. It does not matter how the snow and ice accumulated. They owe a duty to all lawful visitors to use reasonable care to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition.

How Often Should I Check My Driveway?

The best way to prevent a snow and ice injury is to treat snow regularly and promptly in the hours after a snowstorm, then also throughout the winter. This includes your driveway and walkways, as well as areas where cars, pedestrians and delivery trucks come in and out of the driveway. This activity can cause melting and refreezing for weeks after a storm.

Be aware of freezing and melting on other areas of your property as well, such as under roofs and gutters. Pay the most attention to your front step so delivery services and guests can safely access.

What if a Snow Plow Throws Snow on My Driveway?

It is still your responsibility to remove snow pushed onto your property so no one is injured. There is nothing more frustrating than shoveling your driveway, only for the plow to come back around a few minutes later. Again, the most effective response is to act quickly. Snow will be easier to shovel before it freezes to your driveway.

What If I Am Injured on Someone Else’s Property?

Use caution whenever you visit friends and family during the snow season. Try to find out if they have shoveled and salted their driveway and walkway before you visit. If you arrive and their driveway is iced over, consider visiting another time.

What if I am Injured on a Business Property?

Grocery stores and other businesses also have a responsibility to clear snow and ice and keep parking lots and other areas safe for travel after a snow storm. But there are times when snow and ice is left to accumulate or is not fully cleared. There are often several parties involved in commercial lease agreements, including a landlord, tenant and property management company. These parties may not always properly communicate or the party in charge of snow removal may be trying to save money. The party in charge may also not be experienced in hiring snow removal companies or realize the work involved.

When a business is negligent in clearing snow, slip and fall accidents can happen in parking lots. Another hazard is store floors and entrances. When snow melts, water accumulates and someone could slip and fall. A third danger is icy railings. Those in charge of the property have a responsibility to regularly inspect and remove snow and ice from railings, so a visitor doesn’t unknowingly reach for one and fall.

Since businesses can be open extended hours, property owners have a responsibility to address snow and ice accumulation promptly.

Be Aware of High Risk Areas for Mail Carriers and Package Delivery Professionals

Walk to the end of your driveway and make sure mail carriers and package delivery professionals can safely reach your front steps or mailbox.

Help the Elderly in Snow and Ice

The elderly are the most vulnerable to snow and ice injuries. If they fall, they are more likely to suffer long-term injuries. You can be proactive and prevent an injury by asking elderly friends, neighbors and family members if they need any help or anything at the grocery store. Encourage them to stay inside in the hours after a snow storm.

After a Snow and Ice Accident

If you are injured by a snow and ice accident, a doctor should evaluate you to determine if you fractured bones or suffered a concussion or other injuries.

If you were seriously injured, contact a lawyer and learn your legal rights. Contact a lawyer promptly. Under Massachusetts law, there is a limited time to notify a private property owner about injuries in cases involving snow and ice.

Free Legal Consultation – Boston Snow and Ice Accident Lawyer

With 100+ years combined experience, Breakstone, White & Gluck has been consistently recognized as a top-rated Boston personal injury law firm. Our attorneys have been recognized by Top 100 New England Super Lawyers, Top 100 Massachusetts Super Lawyers and Massachusetts Super Lawyers, in the specialties of personal injury and medical malpractice. The firm has also been recognized by U.S. News – Best Law Firms with Tier 1 rankings in personal injury and medical malpractice.

For a free legal consultation, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676. You can also use our contact form.

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College student moving into off-campus apartment in Boston, unpacking boxes

College students and other renters have the right to live in safe apartments.

September has arrived. In Boston, college students returned a few weeks ago and the focus has been preventing the spread of COVID-19. But apartment safety is another important topic – for college students as well as other renters.

If you rent an apartment, your safety is paramount, and that has not changed during COVID-19. We encourage you to inspect properties before signing leases and moving in. Speak to your landlord, your college or your family if you find yourself in unsafe conditions.

At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our personal injury lawyers are experienced in cases involving landlord negligence resulting in the injury of our clients. In Allston and other parts of Boston, we have represented college students and other renters who have been very seriously injured in falls and fires. These are devastating stories, more so because landlords neglected their responsibilities to maintain safe premises.

During COVID-19, there is a very real risk that landlords may fall behind or neglect to maintain their properties. If you rent and see a hazard, be prepared to speak up so no one is injured.

We share a few safety tips and resources:

Notify Your Landlord of Hazards Promptly

If you see a hazard, notify your landlord or the property owner. We know it can be overwhelming to be 19 or 20 years old, living on your own for the first time and stressed about approaching a landlord. Honestly, this is never easy – even for renters with a few years of experience. But if you need help, you should reach out to your parents, family members or someone else you trust. Your safety – and the safety of your roommates and others in the building – is the priority.

When you contact your landlord, do so in writing. Describe what appears unsafe and email a photo. Ask them to come inspect the problem. If you do not make any progress, call your college or the City of Boston’s Inspectional Services Department.

Thoroughly Inspect Your Apartment Regularly

If you recently signed a lease, you likely inspected the apartment first. Your apartment may be in good condition and look well-maintained. But things can break. Safety hazards can emerge with use. Monitor conditions throughout the year so no one is injured.

If you are in the middle of a lease or have rented through COVID-19, you should also conduct a thorough inspection with a new eye.

You may see hazards you have learned to live with. A few examples include broken handles, railings and staircases. Collapsed wood on porches or decks, which will eventually rot away. Floors which are so worn you have already slipped on them. We will stop here. You cannot live with these things. Doing so could result in an accident – and will likely result in you losing part of your security deposit down the road. Alert your landlord now.

Never Forget the First Step of Safety: Smoke Alarms 

Smoke alarms are the most basic tools you have to protect yourself. Make sure your apartment has working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors at all times. Regularly replace the batteries and test them.

Check Out These Websites and Resources for Tenants

Know Your Rights When You Rent in Boston

City of Boston Inspectional Services

Attorney General’s Guide to Landlord and Tenant Rights

A Warning About Fake Apartment Listing Scams, WCVB-TV Boston

Injured by a Landlord’s Negligence in Massachusetts? – Free Legal Consultation

With more than 100 years combined experience, Breakstone, White & Gluck and our Boston personal injury lawyers fight for the rights of those injured by negligence and wrongdoing in premises liability cases. Our attorneys have been consistently recognized among the best lawyers in Massachusetts and New England by Super Lawyers and Best Lawyers in America. We provide experienced representation to those injured by the negligence of property owners and landlords, including in falls, porch collapses, fires and elevator accidents.

If you have been injured by unsafe conditions in an apartment, learn your legal rights.  Call Breakstone, White & Gluck at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.

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It is important to maintain your yard and keep it safe at all times. But this summer, as Massachusetts recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, more people will likely spend more time at home. This means you must take extra care in protecting your home, your family and neighbors from common backyard injuries, such as falls, dog bite injuries and swimming pool accidents.

In Massachusetts, homeowners have a duty to make a reasonable effort to keep their property reasonably safe so lawful visitors are not injured. When a homeowner fails to maintain their property and someone is injured, this may result in a premises liability claim.

When children are involved, homeowners have a greater duty. Under attractive nuisance laws, property owners may be held liable if a young child is injured by an unsafe condition on their property, even if the child is trespassing. These laws recognize that children may not understand potential dangers or that they are trespassing.

Massachusetts Attractive Nuisance Law

M.G.L. c. 231, § 85Q states that a person who maintains an artificial condition upon his own land shall be liable for physical harm to children trespassing thereon under certain conditions.

A landowner can be held liable in part if they knew a child was likely to trespass or reasonably should have known, and if the landowner knew or reasonably should have known there was an unreasonable risk of death and serious bodily harm to children.

Protect Your Front and Backyard This Summer

Protect Your Pool

Baby reaching into pool

Property owners have a responsibility to lock and secure pools to prevent neighborhood children from falling in.

In Massachusetts, homeowners must enclose pools with fences which are a minimum of four feet and taller if necessary for safety. The fence should have a self-latching, self-closing gate and lock at least four feet off the ground. These requirements are meant to protect young children, as well as your lawful guests by slowing access down to your pool. A few steps you can take to secure your pool:

How old is your pool lock? Carefully inspect the integrity of your pool lock.

Inspect your fence. The Consumer Product Safety Commission published this pool safety guide on different types of fences and key specifications, such as how much space you should have between and under the fence panels. See page 6.

Consider a pool alarm. Your fence is your primary defense to keep young children out of your pool. Children can move quickly and drown silently, before you even know they have found their way into your pool. An alarm can help you respond quickly.

Think “layers of protection.” Planting large shrubs in front of your pool fence is one way to slow children down; another added benefit is children won’t be able to see the pool and are likely to forget about it.

At the end of the day: Cover your pool. Remove pool ladders and floats from the pool area and out of sight of children.

Restrain Your Dog

Child and dog in a Massachusetts backyard without supervision

Young children are at risk for dog bite injuries if they wander onto a neighbor’s property.

As a dog owner, you have a responsibility to take care of your pet, including to feed it and make sure it gets proper exercise.

As a homeowner, you have a responsibility to restrain your dog. Under Massachusetts law, you may be held liable if your dog bites or attacks. Here are a few situations when homeowners may be liable for dog bite injuries.

First, you may be held liable if your dog bites a lawful visitor. You may also be held liable if you leave your dog alone outside and it runs off your property and injures a passerby.

Then there are young children. Too young to realize the consequences, they can wander onto your property without invitation and your dog may bite. You may not even see the child come onto your property. But this is another situation when a Massachusetts homeowner may be held liable for a child’s dog bite injuries.

Just like drownings, dog bites and attacks are a frightening and debilitating experience, for children as well as owners. Some describe it as the worst experience of their life. Many victims and loved ones suffer post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

What can you do to prevent a tragedy?

Invest in dog training. Hiring a trainer can help your dog master basic obedience skills.

Install a fence. Consider installing a regular fence around your yard. An invisible dog fence can be effective at keeping your dog on your property. However, it doesn’t prevent children from wandering onto your property. Fences can stop children or at least slow them down.

Remember you can’t predict how your dog will react. Many dog owners have said, “My dog is really good with kids,” just before the animal bites or attacks.

And the problem with young children in your neighborhood: a child may know you and your dog by name. They may routinely say hello when you walk your dog and have warm feelings about your pet. Your dog, however, may not feel or respond the same if the child approaches. If you have a dog, Breakstone, White & Gluck encourages you to secure and supervise your pet this summer. Remember, children are likely to be spending more time at home this summer and you may need to take additional steps.

If you have been injured, Breakstone, White & Gluck is experienced in representing young children and others after dog bites and attacks in Massachusetts. Please read our awards and settlements and contact us if we can assist you with a claim at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676.

$450,000 award:  Child Suffers Facial Injury and Emotional Distress in Dog Bite Attack Details

$300,000 award: Elderly woman bitten by dog, which leads to infection, sepsis and wrongful death.

$150,000 award: Dog injures cyclist, causing bike crash and other injuries. Details

Use Your Backyard Shed

Pick up your yard each day. Pick up toys and bring in pool floats, accessories and towels so they don’t attract a child’s attention.

Certain toys, games and equipment should be used, then immediately locked away. These include portable pools.

To make this easier, keep a key to your backyard shed nearby at all times this summer. Put it in your cell phone case or on a lanyard around your neck so you can easily access your shed as often as you need.

Protect Your Backyard This Summer

2020 has been a challenging year. While we are all limited by Covid 19 this summer, these are steps we can all take to protect our families, neighbors and others from unnecessary injury, and to protect ourselves financially.

Free Legal Consultation – Boston Personal Injury Lawyers

At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our Boston personal injury lawyers specialize in premises liability claims, including those involving swimming pool accidents, dog bites injuries and child injuries. Learn more about our law firm: www.bwglaw.com.

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Snow shoveling

As we negotiate the season’s first snow, there are many warnings: give yourself extra time, drive slowly and clear your car, front steps and driveway.

Remember these precautions in coming days and weeks, especially if you are a property owner. In Massachusetts, property owners have a duty to use reasonable care in clearing snow and ice so no one is injured. Papadopoulos v. Target Corp., 457 Mass. 368 (2010). Where there was once a distinction between “natural” and “unnatural” snow accumulations, there is no longer. The best way to keep your property safe is keep up with each snow fall. Frequently inspect your property throughout the season.

Snow and ice injuries can be serious, requiring months or more to heal. Shoveling your driveway is your responsibility as a property owner and the right thing to do. No one wants to bear the guilt of causing another person injury. And no one wants to be held liable for someone else’s injury and have to pay financial damages.

At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our Boston personal injury lawyers have extensive experience handling premises liability cases, including snow and ice injuries caused by negligence. We share our cases as cautionary tales.

Slip and Fall on Icy Ramp at Commercial Property, $825,000 Settlement
Attorney Marc L. Breakstone successfully negotiated an out-of-court settlement for a client who suffered a serious fall on an icy handicap ramp. The ramp was on a commercial property. Our client suffered a trimalleolar fracture with ankle fusion and had to undergo multiple surgeries. Photos gathered in the case showed part of the handrail was actually missing prior to the accident and there was ice from a downspout. The case settled in favor of our client after two days of mediation. Attorney Breakstone had engaged an engineering expert and meteorology expert to testify had the case gone to court.

Heavy Snow Collapse Causes Traumatic Brain Injury, Undisclosed Settlement After 4th Day of Trial
Attorney Ronald E. Gluck successfully negotiated a settlement for our client, who was injured when heavy snow collapsed suddenly from a commercial warehouse roof onto her vehicle. The defendants – the property owner, the property management company and the company which leased the warehouse – had neglected their duty to clear the snow and provide a safe environment. The case went to Middlesex Superior Court, where Attorney Gluck presented testimony from multiple expert witnesses, including a neurologist and  a meteorologist, in support of his client’s case. Each day, the defendants made an offer to settle the case. After the fourth day, Attorney Gluck’s client accepted an offer that represented an 800 percent increase from the pre-trial offer.

Free Legal Consultation – Breakstone, White & Gluck

Breakstone, White & Gluck brings more than 100 years combined legal experience to those injured by negligence in Massachusetts. We represent clients across Massachusetts, including in Boston and Cambridge; Saugus and the North Shore; Brockton and Plymouth; Cape Cod; Framingham and MetroWest; and Worcester and Central Massachusetts.

If you have been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, learn your rights. Contact Breakstone, White & Gluck for a free legal consultation with one of our personal injury attorneys. Call 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676. You can also use our contact form.

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Marc L. Breakstone

Attorney Marc L. Breakstone has settled a wrongful death case involving a crash at a shopping plaza which failed to protect pedestrians. He has settled the case for the victim’s family for $2.15 million.

The settlement is a reminder that retail property owners have a responsibility to take adequate steps to protect customers and other pedestrians in Massachusetts.

Our client was a 73-year-old man who was killed in 2015. That November, he had been leaving a store with a friend and was hit and killed by an 87-year-old driver. The driver had suddenly and unexpectedly accelerated through the parking lot and onto the sidewalk. Our client died immediately from his injuries, while his friend and another pedestrian were also injured.

Attorney Breakstone conducted a thorough investigation into the crash, which was captured on multiple surveillance cameras. Evidence suggested the elderly driver hit the accelerator instead of the brake.

As his investigation developed, Attorney Breakstone determined the owner of the shopping plaza had failed to provide adequate protections for pedestrians in the spot where our client was killed. This was significant because the owner had taken care to set up protections in other areas. Over the years, more than 30 bollards had been placed at the rear and side of the shopping building. Bollards had also been installed in front of another retail store, but not where the accident occurred.

Had the case gone to trial, Attorney Breakstone was prepared to call an engineering expert to testify that this was a breach of industry standards for providing safe walkways.

Read more about this case on our website.

About Attorney Marc L. Breakstone
Attorney Breakstone has established a reputation as one of the top personal injury lawyers in Massachusetts and New England.  He has been recognized as a Top 100 New England Super Lawyer, a Top 100 Massachusetts Super Lawyer and a Massachusetts Super Lawyer in Plaintiff’s Medical Malpractice. Read his bio.

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lifebuoy

Tips for swimming safely in Massachusetts pools, lakes and ponds and ocean beaches.

We wish our friends, families and colleagues a wonderful Fourth of July holiday week. Whether you enjoy the fireworks in Boston or travel to Cape Cod, we hope you enjoy a more leisurely pace, some good BBQ and a little time in the water. But before you swim, we urge you to remember the rules of water safety at all times.

Ten people die in unintentional drownings each day in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While young children suffer a high number of drowning deaths, swimmers of all ages are at risk during the holiday week and summer months, when we spend more time near the water. This is partly because of our water skills – many of us can’t swim or we overestimate our abilities. According to the American Red Cross, 80 percent of Americans claim they can swim, but just 56 percent can actually perform the five basic water competency skills.

Alcohol consumption also tends to rise during celebrations and gatherings. Alcohol consumption can interfere with one’s ability to interpret their surroundings and respond in any setting, but especially in extreme heat. Near the water, alcohol is particularly potent, factoring into up to 70 percent of deaths associated with water recreation, according to the CDC.

Swimming Pool Safety

Pools should be protected by four-sided fencing which stands at least four feet tall. Doors should be self-closing and self-latching. If you are a parent, avoid visiting homes with inadequate fencing because this is the first and most important line of defense in protecting your child against drowning.

Pools should also have anti-entrapment drain covers and safety release systems to protect children from drain entrapment. Ask pool owners where the drains are before you swim.

Watch children closely. Commit to avoiding distractions such as cell phones, conversation or grilling.

In general, beware of any activity which encourages you to move your gaze up, down or away from the pool. If a child is struggling in the water, they need an immediate response and they cannot call out to you if they are starting to drown.

Never consume alcohol at the pool.

Swim with young children and keep them within arm’s reach.

When using an unfamiliar pool, take a test swim on your own without your child.

Walk into a pool using steps or a ladder, rather than diving.

When you are done swimming, if you have young children, leave the pool area and make sure it’s properly secured.

Water Safety in Lakes and Ponds

If you are swimming, look for a public or private beach staffed by lifeguards.

Adults and children should wear life jackets when in lakes and ponds, on a boat or a dock.

Do not consume alcohol at the lake or pond.

Always swim with a friend or family member.

Closely supervise young children to prevent drownings. At lakes and ponds, there are more elements to consider, including shifting sand and dark water.

Enter the water feet first from a beach or other areas marked as safe entrances.

Only dive in areas which are clearly marked as safe for diving. Jumping in feet first is safer.

Never dive from bridges or boats.

Be responsive to water and weather conditions. Leave the water immediately when there is thunder and lightning.

Pay attention to boats, personal watercraft and other swimmers on the pond which could interfere with your ability to swim safely.

Water Safety at the Ocean

Do not expect your family to be ready for the beach just because they have experience in a swimming pool or even a lake or pond. The ocean is much more challenging and unpredictable.

Choose beaches staffed by lifeguards. In addition to responding to emergencies, lifeguards can share information about water conditions, such as the tide schedule, vegetation, marine animals and fish.

Just like every lake and pond, remember every beach has different conditions.

Swim with young children.

Never swim alone; swim with a buddy.

Learn how to identify a rip tide and how to respond. According to the American Red Cross, swimmers are advised to swim parallel to the shore line until they are free from the rip tide. When swimmers can’t do this, they can attempt to  just float and tread water until they have moved out of the rip tide.

Leave the water immediately if you hear thunder or see lighting. You should also head back to shore if you are traveling in a boat. If you can’t return to shore, lie in the bottom of the boat or shelter in the cabin if you can.

About Breakstone, White & Gluck

The Boston personal injury lawyers at Breakstone, White & Gluck are committed to providing clients with aggressive and thorough representation. We represent clients in all types of personal injury cases, including car accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, dog bites, swimming pool injuries and premises liability cases. For a free legal consultation, contact us today at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.

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Mother and child in a swimming poolEach year, families head into summer, hoping for fun in Massachusetts. No one expects tragedy in the backyard swimming pool. But each year, children suffer drownings and near drownings. Drowning is a leading cause of death among young children in Massachusetts and across the U.S. Young children ages 1 to 4 face the highest risk, followed by older children and teens between the ages 10 and 19, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Breakstone, White & Gluck, a Boston personal injury law firm, encourages parents and property owners to prepare for the swim season. By acting now, before the temperature rises, property owners and parents can minimize the risk of drowning and injury this summer.

For Pool Owners

Secure Pool Fencing
Pool owners have a responsibility to secure their pools with a strong durable fence. This is your legal responsibility and one of the most important steps you can take to prevent a child from a swimming pool drowning. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends pool owners install a four-sided fence with a self-closing latch around all pools and spas. The fence must be at least 4 feet tall in Massachusetts and must meet certain requirements for vertical clearance and width for fence openings. Read our past blog on pool fencing  or check out this guide on a local community’s website.

If you own a pool, consider adding some additional fencing, shrubs or a planter – or several blocking access to your pool door and fence. This is called a “layers of protection” strategy and the goal is to slow children down so an adult can intervene.

Inspect Your Pool Regularly
Make it a habit to walk outside and inspect your pool daily during the summer months.

Pool Alarms
Consider purchasing a pool alarm to monitor your pool area. There are different types of alarms so do your research and select the best for your needs. But remember, a pool alarm is a supplement to your strong fencing and regularly inspecting your pool. 

Drains
Pool owners should regularly maintain drain systems and ensure they work properly. Spas should be covered and locked when out of use. Children should never wear loose accessories into the pool.

For Parents

Swimming Lessons
Parents who sign children up for swim lessons give them an advantage. Formal swimming lessons reduce the likelihood of childhood drowning by 88 percent, according to the USA Swimming Foundation. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that swim lessons are beneficial for children around age 1 and older.

Supervision: Always Watch and Avoid Distractions
Parents should swim with younger children, practicing “touch supervision.” Keep them within your reach at all times on the shallow end. Even if you are not in the pool with them, still closely watch other children and teens carefully at all times.

Keep conversation with other adults at a minimum when watching children swim. Also set aside all distractions, such as cell phones. It takes much longer than you may realize to “quickly” check your cell phone, e-mail or social media accounts. In that time, a child could drown right in front of you, quickly and silently struggling.

If you are a pool owner and have guests over, be just as vigilant in watching children swim. Try inviting over small groups – just a child or two – to enjoy your pool to keep the visit manageable.

Supervision: The Danger of “Non-Swim Time”
Learn more about the dangers of “non-swim time.” Bode Miller and his wife Morgan have recently discussed this and it’s an important term for both parents and pool owners.

The Millers tragically lost their 19-month-old daughter last year when she drowned in a neighbor’s backyard swimming pool. The child had been in the house with her mother, siblings and other adults.

”Without it being an actual swim time, my awareness and my intensity around protecting her from water was let down,” Morgan Miller said in an interview posted on the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) YouTube channel. 

The Millers also recorded this public service announcement for the AAP.

About Breakstone, White & Gluck
Breakstone, White & Gluck is a Boston personal injury law firm. We are committed to promoting safety for children and families through our Project KidSafe campaign. We encourage parents and caretakers to supervise children by the pool and near pools this summer. We also remind property owners that they have a legal responsibility to keep a safe pool area so no one is injured. Learn more about Breakstone, White & Gluck on our website.

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man falls on snow and ice in MassachusettsThe forecast is calling for snow in Boston. Get your shovels ready. Clearing snow and ice isn’t just considerate. It’s a responsibility for property owners and drivers under Massachusetts law.

As personal injury attorneys, we have represented many people who have slipped on snow and ice across Massachusetts and never saw the danger or risk. Slips and falls can happen on both residential and commercial property, on walkways, parking lots and unsecured railings. These injuries can be long-lasting and often leave a person unable to work for a period of time. As a property owner, remember you are in control of your property. Shovel and monitor your property so no one is injured.

Massachusetts Property Owners Must Shovel

Massachusetts law recognizes that property owners have a responsibility to clear snow and ice – now. But this was not always true.

In 2010, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in the case of Papadopoulos v. Target Corporation, SJC-10529 (July 26, 2010). This ruling changed everything for property owners and those who are injured on snow and ice.

In Papadopoulos, the plaintiff fell on ice in a parking lot outside a Target department store at the Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers. Claims were brought against the Target Corporation and Weiss Landscaping Company, the contractor in charge of snow and ice removal.

In its ruling, the Supreme Judicial Court abolished the long-standing distinction between “natural” and “unnatural” snow accumulations. In the past, the cause of snow accumulation was significant in determining whether those injured could bring a claim against the property owner. If snow and ice had naturally accumulated, the property owner may not be held liable for injuries. But property owners could be held liable for unnatural accumulations, such as snow thrown by a plow or shovel.

This was known as the “Massachusetts rule,” of natural accumulation. It was rejected by every other high court in New England, according to the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision.

With this decision, the Supreme Judicial Court wrote that property owners will now be held to the same duty of car to act as a reasonable person, regardless of how snow and ice forms to create a property defect.

For property owners, the takeaway is clear your driveways and walkways. Don’t let snow and ice accumulate. If you do, someone could be seriously injured and you could be held liable.

  • Clear snow during and after snowstorms. Salt regularly. Start early into a snowstorm. After a snowstorm, monitor the ice accumulations on your property. Your property may also need attention for the next few days.
  • Safety for your visitors. Approach your property by foot. Walk up your driveway and on any paths. Test how safe these areas are for your friends, family and delivery professionals.
  • Porch safety. If you have a porch, keep it clear of snow and ice during the winter, so melting does not damage or weaken the wood. Remove furniture from your porch so you have no trouble shoveling.

Massachusetts Drivers Must Shovel, Scrape and Clear

car-snow-200The Massachusetts Driver’s Manual states drivers should remove snow and ice from their vehicles before driving. We urge you to plan extra time. Clear all windows, windshield wipers, headlights and brake lights, so your vehicle is fully operational.

Take extra care to clear your vehicle’s roof. Failure to do so can send snow onto the car behind you, throwing the driver off or causing a car accident.

Drivers can be cited for failure to clear snow in Massachusetts. Police can fine drivers with impeded operation if they drive with snow-covered windows. This offense is punishable by a $40 fine.

When a driver fails to clear their roof, they may face a $200 fine for driving with an unsecured load. Drivers of commercial trucks, passenger trucks, vans and other vehicles traveling with snow and ice and other unsecured loads are highly dangerous, especially in winter conditions. Slow down and create space between you and any vehicle which makes you feel unsafe. Move to another lane. Write down the driver’s license plate and contact police.

A driver’s failure to clear snow can lead to a traffic citations, but also criminal charges and liability in a civil case if someone is injured.

Boston Snow and Ice Accident Lawyers – Free Legal Consultation: 800-379-1244
Breakstone, White & Gluck of Boston has over 100 years combined experience representing those injured by the negligence of commercial and residential property owners. We have expertise in handling cases involving snow and ice falls, porch collapses and landlord negligence. Our Boston personal injury attorneys have represented clients across the state of Massachusetts, including Boston, Brockton, Hyannis and Cape Cod, Fall River, Framingham and Worcester.

For a free consultation, call our office at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.

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