Articles Posted in Negligence

A recent case arose from a bicycle collision on the Cape Cod Rail Trail between a child on a supervised school field trip and a passing cyclist. The injured cyclist and his wife appealed from a Superior Court judgment entered on the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, dismissing their negligence claims against the town of Williamstown and others. On appeal, the plaintiffs contended that (1) the chaperones who supervised the field trip were not public employees and thus could be held personally liable for their negligence, and (2) the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act (MTCA) did not preclude their claims against the town. The Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed the lower court’s judgment for the defendants in this Massachusetts bicycle accident case.

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The plaintiffs argued that the lower court erred when it concluded that the chaperones supervising the elementary school field trip were public employees as a matter of law. They suggested that the chaperones were independent contractors who had broad discretion in exercising their duties and therefore should not be afforded the liability protections provided by the MTCA.

The test for determining whether an individual is a public employee, the appeals court explained, is the same as that used to establish whether an agent is a servant for whose negligent acts a principal may be liable under the common law doctrine of respondeat superior. The basic question is whether a person is subject to the direction and control of a public employer.

A defendant and a third-party plaintiff, C M & B, Inc. (CMB), a general contractor, appealed from a judgment dismissing its indemnification and related claims against its subcontractors Ferreira Concrete Forms, Inc. (Ferreira), and Laserdig. The trial judge ruled, among other things, that the indemnification claim was barred by a governing Rhode Island statute. The Massachusetts Appeals Court agreed and affirmed.

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In 2009, CMB, having contracted with a property owner to construct a retail store in Rhode Island, subcontracted certain concrete work to Ferreira and certain underground utility work to Laserdig. The subcontracts specified that they were to be construed in accordance with Rhode Island law, and they included indemnification clauses. The owner separately contracted with Meade Construction, Inc. (Meade), to perform certain roofing work.

On September 13, 2009, just as Meade was about to commence work, a tree fell on the partially completed building. Since time was of the essence, CMB asked Laserdig if its on-site personnel could assist in clearing the tree, and Laserdig agreed. Although Ferreira had largely completed its concrete work and had no employees on the site that day, Ferreira and Laserdig were under common ownership and sometimes loaned each other their employees as circumstances required. Accordingly, the common owner decided to loan a Ferreira employee to Laserdig in order to assist the other Laserdig employees, as well as CMB and Meade, in clearing the tree. In the course of this work, Meade placed a ladder against the building but did not sufficiently secure it, nor did CMB safety-check it. As the worker climbed the ladder, it slid to one side, causing the worker to fall and suffer injuries.

A $20 million federal lawsuit has been filed against the NFL and the New England Patriots on behalf of the former fiancee and daughter of Aaron Hernandez, who committed suicide this year while serving a murder conviction. The lawsuit was filed the same day it was revealed that Hernandez had suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

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Doctors at Boston University studied the brain of the former Patriots tight end and determined that Hernandez had Stage 3 CTE, an advanced form of the neurodegenerative disease. CTE, which can only currently be diagnosed in an autopsy, can be caused by repeated head trauma and leads to symptoms like violent mood swings, depression, and other cognitive difficulties. Hernandez’s CTE was allegedly the most severe case of CTE that the Boston University researchers had ever seen for someone of his age. Advanced stage 3 of CTE is usually found in the median age of 67-year-old men.

Beginning in 2005, a forensic pathologist and neuropathologist found CTE in the brains of diseased NFL players Mike Webster, Terry Long, Andre Waters, Justin Strzelczyk, and Tom McHale. Between 2008 and 2010, the bodies of twelve former professional American football players were diagnosed with CTE postmortem by Dr. Ann McKee.

A plaintiff, while working as a police officer, responded to a call at the home of the defendant. The call indicated that the defendant had locked himself inside the house and was threatening to hurt himself. After arriving at the home and making numerous requests of the defendant to enter, the plaintiff ultimately attempted to kick the door down and was seriously injured as a result. He alleged that his injuries were proximately caused by the defendant’s negligence. He did not make any allegations relating to conditions on the premises.

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The common-law firefighter’s rule provides that a firefighter or police officer who enters private property in the course of his employment duties generally cannot bring a civil action against the property owner for injuries sustained as a result of a defect in the premises. The plaintiff appealed from the trial court judgment in favor of the defendant. In granting the defendant’s motion to strike, the trial court concluded that the firefighter’s rule precluded the plaintiff’s sole claim, which was rooted in ordinary negligence. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Connecticut concluded that the firefighter’s rule should not extend beyond claims of premises liability. The court therefore reversed the trial court’s judgment in favor of the defendant and remanded the case to the trial court.

On appeal, the plaintiff asserted that the trial court incorrectly granted the motion to strike because his claim was not barred by the firefighter’s rule. Specifically, he claimed that the issue was controlled by the Connecticut Supreme Court’s decision in Levandoski v. Cone, in which the firefighter’s rule was limited to claims of premises liability.

An 18-year-old woman was fatally shot by Maine police in February. Her mother recently filed notice for a wrongful death lawsuit against the three officers who fired the shots, the town of Vassalboro, Kennebec County, the Vassalboro Police Department, and the head of the Maine State Police. She was appointed the personal representative for her daughter’s estate by a Kennebec County Probate Court judge. She is seeking $500,000 in damages.gun

The victim was shot to death on February 10th of this year on Arnold Road in Vassalboro. A 25-year-old man was also killed in the incident. He was driving a truck in which the victim was the passenger. The man allegedly rammed into a police cruiser, and two Maine police officers and the Vassalboro police chief  all fired their guns. The officers were responding to a reported robbery when the man hit the police cruiser. All three officers have been placed on administrative leave without pay since the shooting.

The woman claims that the victim was merely an innocent bystander. At the time the shots were fired, she’s said, the victim was not a threat to any of the officers or anyone else. She hadn’t committed a crime, and she wasn’t trying to escape or flee. The police didn’t need to use deadly force, she said, and “they could have took that car out.” Her notice of suit claims the agencies had inadequate training and policies to cause the use of force that caused her daughter’s death.

A plaintiff filed suit for negligence under the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act (Act) against the Massachusetts State Police after being attacked by a trained police dog in a parking lot. A state trooper who was an experienced dog handler had been in pursuit of a criminal through that parking lot. The plaintiff sued the police, alleging that the trooper’s conduct in releasing the police dog to capture a criminal in a public space created a foreseeable risk of harm to an innocent bystander. The lower court disagreed and granted summary judgment to the state police, reasoning that the plaintiff’s negligence claim was barred by the immunity provisions of the Act. The plaintiff appealed.

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In reversing, the appeals court first explained that the Act exempts a public employer from liability for any claim based on the performance of a discretionary duty by a public employee, regardless of whether that discretion is abused. The parties agreed that the state police was a public employer immunized from liability by the discretionary function exemption in the Act.

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A defendant and her employer, Eastern Connecticut Health Network, Inc., appealed from a trial court judgment for the plaintiff following a jury trial on his negligence claim resulting from a car accident. The Connecticut Court of Appeals affirmed.

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On November 21, 2012, at approximately 4:45 p.m., the plaintiff exited off Interstate 84 in Manchester. When the left arrow for his lane turned green, he proceeded slowly into the intersection. The defendant, who was traveling east on Deming Street in her Toyota Camry, hit the plaintiff’s car on the driver’s side door. Although the defendant applied her brakes prior to the impact, the plaintiff still sustained serious, life-threatening injuries. Several witnesses saw the accident and gave statements to the police or provided testimony to the jury. The statements and testimony of those witnesses varied greatly. Some of the witnesses stated that the defendant ran through a red light and that the plaintiff had a green light. Other witnesses stated that the plaintiff ran through a red light and that the defendant had a green light.

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A plaintiff was injured after she tripped on a bent stake jutting onto the walkway outside her condominium unit. She thereafter filed suit, alleging that the owner of the complex, Huntington Wood Condominium Trust, and the contractor responsible for snow removal, The Green Company Landscape & Irrigation, Inc., negligently maintained a hazardous condition that caused her injury. The superior court disagreed, finding that she failed to establish that the defendants had actual or constructive notice of a supposedly dangerous condition. The judge therefore granted the defendants’ motions for summary judgment. The plaintiff appealed, and the Massachusetts Court of Appeals affirmed.
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She alleged that in mid-March 2010, she injured herself when she tripped on a stake that poked out onto the walkway next to her condo unit. She passed that stake approximately three times that day before falling. She noticed that it was bent but did not realize it was jutting out onto the walkway. In the evening, she walked to her car. When she returned from her car, she tripped over the stake.

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A Holyoke family who narrowly escaped death during a January 1 fire filed suit for negligence on February 16 in Hampden Superior Court. Three victims were killed and 50 people were left homeless after the wild fire ravaged the four-story apartment building.

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Investigators decided the fire began when a wall outlet inside an apartment unit malfunctioned. The building was not equipped with sprinklers. (However, Massachusetts law did not require it to have a sprinkler system.) The investigators also concluded that the alarm system lost the connection to its monitoring company about a day prior to the fire. Thus, when the fire broke out, the alarms activated, but no signal was sent to the monitoring company. Accordingly, there was up to a 20-minute delay before the fire department was alerted t0 the fire.

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A plaintiff was injured in February 2013 when he fell from scaffolding on a construction site while employed by a contractor of the defendant. The plaintiff thereafter filed suit for negligence against the defendant, alleging that the defendant violated several Massachusetts state regulations and federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) regulations concerning the safety of the worksite.

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The trial judge allowed the plaintiff to introduce the OSHA regulations at trial but concluded that he could not introduce the state regulations because they were preempted by OSHA. After trial, the jury determined that the plaintiff was 51 percent negligent in causing his own injuries and that the defendant was only 49 percent negligent. The plaintiff therefore did not recover damages, and judgment was entered dismissing his complaint. On appeal, he claimed that the trial judge erroneously prevented him from introducing the state regulations at trial because they are not preempted by OSHA, and he was entitled to a new trial because the state regulations would have made a difference in the verdict. The Massachusetts appeals court disagreed and affirmed the lower court’s judgment.

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