This is another area of the law that is very case specific. You should always call to discuss the specific issues regarding your slip and fall. Here are a few things you should know about slip and falls:
- In Massachusetts, there is no liability for a slip and fall caused by the natural accumulation of snow and ice. It does not matter if the property owner didn’t plow the parking lot or if they did a poor job plowing, if the snow or ice is there naturally, there is no cause of action. However,
- if the snow or ice is there due to some unnatural event, such as pumping water out of a basement, there is a cause of action.
- if the snow or ice covers a defect in the property, there may also be a cause of action.
- To prove that a property owner is negligent it must be shown that there was an unreasonably dangerous condition and that the property owner had actual or constructive notice of the condition and that the property owner failed to use reasonable care to reduce or eliminate the condition and that your injuries were caused by the incident. I often use the following examples to explain the proof needed:
- Let’s say you are at a restaurant and get up to head to the bathroom. On your way, someone knocks over a glass of water just as you are walking by and you slip and fall. In this case, the property owner is not negligent because they didn’t have any notice of a dangerous condition. However, if the glass of water had been spilled a “reasonable time” prior to you slipping on it, you may have a case.
- Let’s say the water was spilled and a waitress walked by and took notice of it but did not clean it up. In this case the property owner is negligent. The problem arises when it cannot be shown that that the property owner noticed the water, but the water sat there for an hour and should have been noticed (constructive notice). In this case, you have to prove how long the water sat there and you may have a case.
More recently, the court adopted the “mode of operation approach” to determine if the property owner is negligent. The theory is whether or not the property owner “could reasonably foresee that a dangerous condition exists and failed to take adequate steps to forestall resulting injuries.” The case from which it derives was where a shopper at a grocery store slipped and fell on a grape. The property owner argued that they did not have notice of the grape; however, the court found where the store’s mode of operation was to allow customers to pick through loose fruit that it was foreseeable that the fruit would fall on the floor and become a hazard.