Articles Tagged with “Massachusetts snow and ice accident lawyers”

An appeal by a plaintiff in a Massachusetts snow and ice slip-and-fall case has led to the opportunity for trial. The Massachusetts Appeals Court vacated the original judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings after finding that the judge erred in allowing the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

The case arose from a fall that occurred outside a McDonald’s restaurant in 2007. The plaintiff, Mercilia Lindor, slipped and fell on an icy sidewalk outside the restaurant, breaking her foot. While still lying on the sidewalk, Lindor witnessed another man close by slip and fall to his knees. The conditions were so bad that emergency personnel at the scene had difficulty moving the plaintiff. They had to ask McDonald’s employees to salt the area.

Prior to trial, McDonald’s moved for a summary judgment, arguing that the ice outside the restaurant had accumulated naturally, and that under long-standing Massachusetts common law it was not liable for an accident occurring under those conditions. The plaintiff filed no opposition, and the judge allowed the defendant’s motion, issuing the order on July 22, 2010.
The resulting judgment was entered on the docket on July 28, 2010.

Two days prior to this, however, on July 26, 2010, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decided the case of Papadopoulos v. Target Corp., in which it established a new standard for determining liability in cases of injury arising from ice and snow accidents: property owners must take “reasonable care” to remove all accumulations of ice and snow. This new standard does not require any distinction between “natural” and “unnatural” accumulations.

The Court also held that the ruling was retroactive, meaning it will be applied to all open and pending claims in which a judgment had not yet been entered. Although the judge issued an order for summary judgment prior to the Papadopoulos ruling, in Massachusetts a judgment is only considered final when a clerk dockets it. Fortunately for the plaintiff, this occurred on July 28, two days after the ruling in Papadopoulos. For this reason, the “reasonable care” standard established in Papadopoulos will apply to Lindor’s case.

The Court decided that there was a genuine issue of fact as to whether McDonald’s took “reasonable care” in protecting lawful visitors to the property, and as a result, the judgment was vacated, enabling Ms. Lindor to pursue her claim.

The case decided was Lindor v. McDonald’s Restaurants of Massachusetts, Inc., Mass. App. Ct No. 10-P-1615 (November 10, 2011).
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With near record levels of snowfall across Massachusetts this winter, the state has seen many car accidents, over 100 roof collapses and many school closures. These challenges follow Papadopoulos v. Target Corp., the 2010 Massachusetts court ruling which raised the legal burden on Massachusetts property owners to clear snow and ice.

With the ruling, Massachusetts property owners must take reasonable care to remove all snow and ice from their property or be found liable for resulting injuries from snow and ice falls. Previously, property owners were not liable for injuries resulting from natural accumulations. While a new law often faces challenges in the first few months, this extreme winter has added many unexpected turns.

Attorney David W. White of Breakstone, White & Gluck and Attorney James T. Scamby of Tucker, Heifetz & Saltzman joined Legal Talk Network and co-host Bob Ambrogi this week to discuss what the new law means in this extreme winter.

Click here to hear the podcast.

Click here to learn more about the show and news stories about Massachusetts’ snow and ice law.
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Massachusetts commuters struggled through a hard January, as a record four feet of snow slammed the region, making for dangerous drives, difficult walking and weary spirits.

As February moves in, both the snowbanks and frustrations keep growing – making it even more important to plan before heading outside, especially if you commute to work.

The risk for car accidents increases in the snow and approximately 70 percent of all winter deaths related to snow and ice occur in automobiles, according to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

Here are our some safety tips from the Boston personal injury lawyers at Breakstone, White & Gluck:

  • Have a well-stocked Winter Emergency Car Kit. It should include a flashlight with extra batteries, cell phone charger, first-aid kit, windshield scraper and brush, shovel and a brightly colored cloth to use as a flag. Click here for other items to include.
  • Consider public transportation.
  • If you drive, travel during daylight hours. Consider commuting with a co-worker on the most difficult days.
  • Slow down on the road. Many times, hazards such as black ice cannot be seen until it’s too late.
  • Be extra cautious driving around bends in the road. The tall snowbanks have narrowed the roadways, leaving less room for both you and other cars, increasing the chance for car accidents on snow and ice.
  • Give the snow plows extra room to work.
  • Be aware you may have to slow down for pedestrians in areas where sidewalks aren’t shoveled.
  • Keep your car’s gas tank at least half-full.
  • Make sure your car has good winter tires with adequate tread and pressure.
  • If you do have to stop your car on the highway, stay calm. Pull off the road and turn off the hazard lights. Take the brightly colored distress flag from your snow emergency kit and tie it to your radio antenna or window. Call the local police and your local auto club for assistance.

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A snowblower is a valued asset in Massachusetts amid a winter which has already blanketed the region with several feet of snow.

But while a snowblower may look relatively simple to operate, remember it’s a powerful tool that must be used with caution. Each year, approximately 5,700 people visit emergency rooms for injuries associated with snowblowers, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

A new Massachusetts law took effect in 2010, requiring property owners to take reasonable care to remove all snow accumulation from their property and keep accessible areas safe to travel. A landowner who fails to do so may be held liable for snow and ice injuries that occur on his or her property.

In a winter like this one, keeping your property safe from slip and falls means more than pulling out the snowblower and salting down the front steps. Snow has built up on roofs, buried heating vents and left long icicles hanging over frequently traveled areas.

Plan ahead and avoid an emergency on your property. Here are some tips from the Boston snow and ice accident lawyers at Breakstone, White & Gluck:

  • Check your property now before the next snowstorm. Chances are there are existing snow patches and icicles you can clear so they do not become more dangerous.
  • Read the user manual that came with your snowblower to avoid injuring yourself and others.
  • Many injuries associated with snowblowers occur when consumers try to clear clogged snow from the auger shaft and blades. Never attempt to do this with your hands. Purchase a newer model that comes with a clearing tool or if necessary, use a long stick.
  • Snowblowers emit a large amount of carbon monoxide. Always start your machine outside and never inside a garage.
  • Dress appropriately when using the snowblower. Long scarves and jacket drawstrings can easily get caught in the machine and cause an accident.
  • Check online to see if there have been any product recalls or updates involving your snowblower since last winter. The CPSC website is a good place to start.
  • Walk around your house and identify the locations of all heating and dryer vents. Clear them completely. Make sure they are accessible so you can reach them to remove snow during the next snowstorm.
  • As you walk around your home, inspect your roof for icicles. The longer icicles should be removed to prevent accidents and someone from being hit. It is unsafe to use a ladder in the snow. Purchase a snow broom or snow roof rake from your local hardware store.

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