2010 Massachusetts Case Law Update

Jan 10, 2011 | Posted in Industry News

2010 Massachusetts Case Law Update.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has issued a decision in case SJC-10529, written by Judge Ralph Gants, that has a direct impact on property owners’ defense of snow and ice slip and fall personal injury claims. The case abolishes the natural accumulation defense which has been available in Massachusetts slip and fall cases for several decades.

Previously, where a plantiff alleged to have slipped on a snowy or icy surface, it was the duty of the plaintiff to prove that their slip and fall was caused by an artificial defect in the property. A property owner could not be held responsible for naturally occurring snow or ice. In the case of SJC-10529, a patron fell on a patch of ice in a parking lot in front of a national retail chain store in Danvers, Massachusetts. The lower court had ruled in favor of the defendant (the retail store owner) on the basis of a defense that asserted that the undisputed material facts established that the patch of ice which was slipped upon was caused by a natural accumulation. However, the Supreme Court later examined the distinction between natural and unnatural accumulations of snow and ice. It ruled to “abolish the distinction between natural and unnatural accumulations of snow and ice, and apply to all hazards arising from snow and ice the obligation of reasonable care that a property owner owes to lawful visitors regarding all other hazards.”