Articles Posted in Snow and Ice Accidents

Settlement was reached during trial in Middlesex Superior Court

Attorney Ronald E. Gluck, a Boston personal injury lawyer

Attorney Ronald E. Gluck

Breakstone, White & Gluck successfully resolved a mild traumatic brain injury case  for our client, who was injured when heavy snow collapsed from a commercial warehouse roof onto her vehicle. During the recent jury trial in Middlesex Superior Court, Attorney Ron Gluck presented testimony from multiple expert witnesses including  a neurologist and  a meteorologist, who testified in support of his client’s case.

Four days into the trial,  the defendants made an offer that represented an 800% increase from  the pre- trial offer and the case was settled at that time, just before it would have gone to the jury for deliberation.  The settlement provides significant compensation for the injuries and damages that our client suffered.

Defendants
Attorney Gluck presented evidence showing that the three defendants – the property owner,  the property management company, and the company that leased the warehouse – took no action to remove snow from the warehouse roof and awning following 20 to 24 inches of snowfall. Defendants had a duty to provide a safe environment for those legally visiting the property, such as our client who was making a delivery to the loading dock at the time of her injury.

Trial and Litigation
Through extensive depositions taken during the litigation it was proven that the defendant corporations failed to establish policies for snow removal from the awning, which was located directly above the loading dock, and that none of the employees of the defendant corporations had any understanding of whose responsibility it was to remove snow from the roof. As a result, snow remained on the awning after a historic snow storm and fell onto the liftgate of plaintiff’s vehicle which slammed down onto her head, causing her injuries.

At trial, it was proven that our client was instructed to park her car directly below the awning in spite of the fact that the defendant was aware that snow had fallen from the awning onto the loading dock on prior occasions and that they knew it presented a danger to anyone standing under that awning.

The evidence presented at trial established that our client suffered a traumatic brain injury which caused multiple symptoms including memory loss, mood alteration, dizziness, headaches and involuntary movement of her limbs.  She underwent a long regimen of medical treatment for her injuries.

Settlement
At the beginning of the trial, the defendants denied that they were negligent and that their negligence caused our client’s injuries. But, as the trial proceeded and Attorney Gluck presented evidence, the defendants’ settlement offers grew each day until the case was settled on day four.

Breakstone, White & Gluck – Free Legal Consultation: 800-379-1244

Breakstone, White & Gluck is known for our exemplary trial experience. Not every case can be or should be settled out of court. When our attorneys go to trial, we do so with the respect of our colleagues and judges, bringing over 100 years combined experience before Massachusetts trial and appeals courts. We are known for our successful outcomes and for holding defendants, from individuals and insurance companies, to the MBTA and corporations, accountable for their negligence to our clients.

At Breakstone, White & Gluck, each of our partners has over 35 years of experience representing clients in serious personal injury claims in Massachusetts. Our attorneys have successfully presented our clients’ cases before the trial courts, the Appeals Court and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

If you have been injured, we can advise you on whether you may have the legal right to seek compensation. For a free legal consultation, contact us at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

courthouseFor decades, the Massachusetts courts have adhered to the “transitory water doctrine.” Simply put, under this common law standard, Massachusetts property owners have generally been shielded from liability in slip and fall cases when an injury results from normal use in wet weather. For example, a customer who wears boots in the snow and tracks water into a store, causing another customer to slip.

Established more than 40 years ago, the transitory water doctrine has set the legal standard for property owners. With no incentive to avoid liability, large commercial property owners were virtually free from worries about injuries caused by water tracked in from outside. Make no mistake: many people have been badly hurt right after crossing the threshold of a store, where the water and grime are most concentrated.

But this may change, after a recent ruling by Superior Court Judge Cornelius J. Moriarty II.

Snow shoveling

Property owners, grab your shovels, some salt and a little patience. The snow is back in Boston and this is just the beginning.

Snow Removal Was Not Required in Massachusetts
We shouldn’t say the beginning. Snow and ice is the oldest story in New England. But for many years, Massachusetts law distinguished between “natural” and “unnatural” snow accumulation and held that property owners were not liable for injuries caused by a natural accumulation of snow and ice. But the Supreme Judicial Court abolished this distinction in Papadopoulos v. Target, 457 Mass. 368 (July 26, 2010).

In Papadopoulos, the plaintiff slipped on ice in the parking lot outside a Target department store in Danvers. After leaving the store, the plaintiff fell on a patch of ice on the pavement. The patch formed after a snowplow had worked in the area, followed by a snowstorm. He filed suit against Target Corporation and Weiss Landscaping Company, Inc., which was responsible for the snow and ice removal.

The trial court ruled the patch was a “natural accumulation” of snow. The Appeals Court affirmed this decision, but the Supreme Judicial Court rejected the distinction between natural and unnatural snow accumulation. With this decision, property owners had to accept the same duty of care in snow and ice cases as in other cases. They must keep their property reasonably safe.

Massachusetts Property Owners Now Have a Duty of Reasonable Care in Snow Removal
This was a good decision for consumers, because now, those who fall on someone’s property can now seek compensation for their injuries and recovery if the property was not properly maintained. Homeowners, landlords, businesses and commercial property owners now have a duty of reasonable care to clear the snow and ice.

Since Papadopoulos, the courts have recognized this responsibility with an occasional exception for commercial property owners. In some cases, the courts have found store owners or tenants which operate in a leased space are responsible for the maintenance, and not the property owner. This distinction turns on the fact the tenant has control of the property. Lease provisions also usually require the tenant to indemnify the landowner.

If You Are Injured on Snow and Ice
If you slip and are injured on snow and ice, you have rights, but you need to act promptly. First, you should always receive medical treatment for your injuries. Then, notify the owner or person in control of the property that you were injured on their property. This must be done within thirty days! (M.G.L. c. 84, § 21).

Before you notify a property owner, consult a Boston snow and ice accident lawyer. At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our attorneys have extensive experience in this area. We are here to answer your questions and advise you of your legal rights. You may be entitled to payment of medical bills, lost wages and other damages.

A Recent Case Handled by Breakstone, White & Gluck
When our client fell on an icy ramp in Walpole, she turned to Attorney Marc L. Breakstone for help. He investigated and negotiated an $825,000 settlement.

Attorney Breakstone’s investigation found the handicap ramp, which was on a commercial property, had not been maintained. The area where our client fell was covered in ice and there was no hand railing. This was a violation of state and local codes. Read more about this case.

Continue reading

Boston personal injury attorney Marc L. Breakstone

Attorney Marc L. Breakstone recently negotiated a settlement for a woman who was seriously injured when she slipped on an icy ramp. The ramp was on a commercial property.

Read about Attorney Breakstone’s work.

 

dw-200-webMany of us would rather skip the shovels, snowblowers and ice scrapers this winter. But when the snow falls, remember that Massachusetts property owners have a responsibility to keep their property reasonably safe. So your shovel must come out.

For over 100 years, Massachusetts property owners enjoyed a special exemption from liability for “natural accumulations” of snow and ice. An injured person previously had to demonstrate that the accumulation was unnatural, such as the frozen discharge from a gutter, or a pile of plowed snow across a sidewalk. But for the past six years, Massachusetts has followed the rule of reasonable care.

All residential and commercial property owners now have to take reasonable steps to clear the snow and ice hazards and keep their property safe for traveling.

18424768_s.jpg
More snowfall today just means more frustration for many of us in Massachusetts. Before today, the Boston area had already seen more than 53 inches of snow this winter, 10 inches more than the total annual average. Worcester is also close to setting a record, recording 72 inches, just four inches away.

Much of the snow has fallen hard during the past two weeks, during the Blizzard of 2015 and other storms. A Washington Post headline summed it up best: “Boston’s record-setting snow blitz – a winter’s worth of snow in less than 10 days.”

Those 10 days should be done now. But Mother Nature just keeps throwing down snow, though she gave the Patriots a reprieve, allowing them to hold their Super Bowl parade in Boston this week. But even the professional football team had to postpone a day to avoid the bitter cold and to let the City of Boston catch up on the clean-up.


More snow is expected this weekend. A few things to remember:

Clearing Snow from Your Property. Homeowners in Massachusetts have a responsibility to clear the snow and ice from their driveways, walkways and other areas of their property. It is important to make sure your family and others, such as friends, postal carriers and delivery workers, can safely visit your property without slipping and falling.

If someone slips and falls on your property, you could be held liable for damages, even if they are uninvited. For a long time, Massachusetts law regarding snow and ice injuries exempted property owners from liability if someone was injured as a result of snow that naturally accumulated and had not been cleared. But in 2010, the Supreme Judicial Court overruled this nearly century old rule. There is now a clear directive that Massachusetts property owners must remove snow and ice. The case is Papadopoulos v. Target Corporation, SJC-10529 (July 26, 2010). Here is a past blog and a Lawyer Alert we wrote on the ruling.


Snow Blower. Make sure you read the instructions and understand your snow blower before using it in heavy snow conditions. If the snow blower is jammed DO NOT attempt to clear it by hand. Even if the blower is not running, it can have stored up mechanical energy that can deliver devastating injuries. Check with the manufacturer and the Consumer Product Safety Commission at the start of each winter to see if there have been any product recalls.

Here is a resource for safe use of snow blowers.


Shoveling Snow Safely. While you must clear the snow, you also have to be safe. Snow removal can lead to injuries, some minor and some very serious, such as heart attacks, dehydration, pulled muscles, broken bones from slip and falls and frostbite. Always consult with your doctor if you concerned about your ability to undertake this strenuous exercise.

If you shovel, drink plenty of water, stop periodically to stretch and dress in layers so you can easily remove one if you get overheated. Try to push the snow, rather than lift it, when you can. Here is an article about shoveling snow safely.


Driving and Taking Public Transportation. Be patient. Limit your time on the road if you can. The Governor of Massachusetts declared a state of emergency and travel ban during the recent blizzard. Many employers closed their offices then and since on other days of heavy snowfall.

When you have to travel, consider public transportation when you can or stagger your work day schedule if it helps and your employer allows this.

If you ride the MBTA, monitor the website, app or local TV stations. Red Line and Orange Line commuters faced significant delays this week, with 40 percent of the cars disabled for mechanical problems. Many commuters were left standing outside in the cold, waiting for trains or had to take buses. Systems are failing all over the state.


Walking. The snowbanks are tall and the roads narrow in many areas, making it hard to walk. If you must walk outside, wear visible clothing, including a bright safety vest if you have one, so you are visible to drivers. Walk on sidewalks and carefully look around snowbanks before stepping into the streets, even at crosswalks.

Watch out for regular traffic, as well as snow plows. A Weymouth woman was killed in a pedestrian accident this week when she was struck by a plow driver at her condominium complex.

Carry your cell phone in case of an emergency but do not use it while walking. Also do not wear headphones and listen to music when trying to face the complications of winter travel.
Continue reading

snowroof_180.jpgA young woman’s death after heavy snow caused a roof collapse in Weymouth has officials warning the public to watch out for their homes.

On Thursday, a 29-year-old woman was killed when a carport collapsed on her. The woman was talking on the phone while sitting on the porch steps of a Harlem Road home. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) has issued a warning for the public to clear off their home roofs and storm drains in their neighborhoods to minimize flooding problems.

While we expect snow in Massachusetts, it has challenged drivers and caused numerous school day cancellations this season. Piles of snow have hampered visibility. Drivers are navigating a maze of snow-packed and slushy roads along with dangerous potholes and, which are starting to appear in the melting.

In addition to the Weymouth woman’s death, a barn collapse in Framingham killed three cows and injured four others this week. At the Burlington Mall, a water main break trapped a vehicle in a large sinkhole. The mall was closed but expected to re-open today.

It may seem like a record-setting season, but not this year. Yes, we are already 25 inches above the average season’s snowfall. But earlier this week (before the snowfall) the Boston Herald reported that while Boston had seen 53.5 inches, 1995-1996 was the record snow year, with 107.6 inches. The National Weather Service has predicted this season will not even make the top 10 list for heaviest snowfalls.

When snow piles up, some roofs are vulnerable to collapse, especially when there are numerous snow storms combined with rain and overnight melting. Flat commercial roofs are at the greatest risk. This year, while the snow may not appear that deep, some of the storms have dumped heavy wet snow, and that has been followed by soaking rains. The loads are immense.

How to remove snow from a roof is a challenge. Homeowners can attempt to clear it themselves with a snow rake, which can be purchased at most hardware stores. But you should never use a snow rake from a roof. You should clear the snow from the ground to avoid the risk of slipping and falling and head injuries.

Unless you are experienced, avoid ladders, which can be extremely slippery. The other thing to know is that metal snow rakes can conduct electricity if they come into contact with a power line.

Often by this time of year, a roof may require a professional treatment because of repeated snow storms and winter freezing. If that is the case, call someone who is experienced and insured for this type of work. They should be insured in case they damage your home, and they should also carry worker’s compensation insurance for their employees. You have the right to ask for proof of insurance, and you should.

Finally, do take some time to shovel your walks and your stairs. It the safe and the neighborly thing to do.
Continue reading

If you are a property owner, today is a good time to inspect your driveway and walkways. Even if you worked hard to clear all the snow yesterday, go out and take a second look. The deep freeze is setting in and more snow is forecast for tomorrow, creating the potential for slip and fall accidents.

Why is this important? In addition to making it easier for your family to come and go from your home, you have a duty to use reasonable care to clear snow and ice under Massachusetts law. If you neglect this, you could be liable for any injuries that result.

david-fox-tv.jpg

Massachusetts Law on Snow and Ice Removal The law for clearing your property is more strict than in past years. It changed in 2010, with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in Papadopoulos v. Target Corporation, SJC-10529 (July 26, 2010). View TV interviews from 2010/2011 in which attorney David White explains the law.

Prior to then, property owners were liable for injuries sustained on what was known as “unnatural accumulations” of snow or ice. Examples of this are gutters leaking onto sidewalks or snow piled on sidewalks.

The state’s high court changed the longstanding law so it falls in line with other states. Massachusetts property owners now have a responsibility to keep their premises in a reasonably safe condition and clear all snow and ice, whether it is a natural accumulation by Mother Nature or pushed there by a plow.

This law applies to homeowners as well as commercial property owners.

A few points to remember when it snows:

  • You have a responsibility to clear your driveway, sidewalks and other areas accessible to the public.
  • If you are using a snow blower, remember a shovel for narrow and hard-to-reach areas.
  • Do you have the physical ability and time to clear your snow this year? If not, consider contacting a snow removal company.
  • Cities have responsibility for clearing sidewalks, but some have ordinances requiring residents to clear their own. These include Boston, Worcester and Newton.

Safety
We all have to balance our legal responsibility to clear the snow with safety. It is hard work and tempting to take shortcuts at times. Remember a few basic safety rules. Do not start your snow blower in your garage or other covered areas. Before you shovel your driveway, clear your home’s heating vents so carbon monoxide does not build up in your home. Then, make sure you dress in layers and take breaks as needed.

Related:
Snow removal law may face test, Boston Globe, Dec. 25, 2010.
Continue reading

snow-blizzard-2013.jpgAfter a snow storm that buried Massachusetts with record-setting strength, many of us are slowly making our way back to our daily routines.

Massive snow banks, narrow roads and giant icicles are now the challenge. Governor Deval Patrick has lifted the weekend’s driving ban, but the State of Emergency remained in effect this morning. Many schools cancelled classes for another day and Boston Mayor Tom Menino encouraged businesses to let their employees work from home today.

Our tips for staying safe and avoiding injuries as you travel:

Community Websites. Check your community website for information about snow plowing and closed streets, as well as power outages and school closures.

Public Transportation. Use the MBTA if you are traveling into Boston. Mayor Menino is urging the public to stay off the roads to make room for cleanup.

Store and Pharmacy. Choose merchants close to home if you are heading out to restock up on food, medications and other supplies. Travel in daylight if possible.

Pedestrians Use Caution. Stay indoors today. Over the next few weeks, limit outdoor walks until the snow melts. If you must walk, wear a neon-colored vest.

Drivers. If you do drive, beware of the tall snowbanks and avoid roads which may not be fully cleared. Remember some roads may not have enough space for two-lane traffic.

Parking. Call ahead to ask about parking, even to your employer. Parking may not be available or be limited. Looking for spaces can lead to frustration among drivers and car accidents.

Gasoline and Vehicle Supplies. Keep your gas tank full over the next few days and equip your car with supplies such as a first aid kit, snow brush, small shovel, blanket and an extra hat and pair of mittens.

Take a Minute. Driving in these conditions can be stressful and accidents can occur. If you find yourself in a dangerous situation, pull over at your earliest opportunity. Take a minute to think about your options and if necessary, call the local police or fire department on their non-emergency line and ask for their direction.

Related:
Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency App.

City of Boston

MBTA
Continue reading