Massachusetts Court Affirms Defense Judgment in Construction Accident Lawsuit

Construction site accidents are common in Cape Cod and elsewhere in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, legal claims arising from these types of on-the-job injuries can be more difficult to pursue than more traditional workers’ compensation cases.

One reason for this is that those in the construction industry may be injured by someone other than his or her direct employer. A particular individual might also be working as an independent contractor. In such a situation, workers’ compensation may not be available, and the injured person’s only remedy may be to filed a negligence suit against the person or company who he or she believes caused the accident.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was construction worker who was severely injured when a porch roof where he was working collapsed and caused him to fall about 12 feet to the ground. The plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit against the defendants, a contractor on the construction project, a trustee (the property where the accident happened was apparently owned by a trust rather than by an individual or corporation), and the person responsible for the maintenance of the property, seeking payment for his medical expenses of approximately $1.3 million, along with other damages resulting from the fall.

The case was tried to a jury, which returned a verdict declaring that the plaintiff was 51% at fault in the accident and, thus, not entitled to any monetary compensation for his injuries under Massachusetts’ modified comparative fault rule. The plaintiff appealed.

The Court’s Ruling

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the lower court had erred in 1) refusing to instruct the jury on a landowner’s duty to ensure that the premises were safe and contained no hidden defect and 2) instructing the jury as to the six-year statute of repose applicable to construction defect lawsuits. The appellate court disagreed with the plaintiff’s contentions and affirmed the lower court’s judgment upon the jury’s verdict.

As to the plaintiff’s request for a specific jury instruction regarding the landowner’s duty, the appellate court found that the trial court judge had adequately and accurately covered that subject even if the specific language requested by the plaintiff had not been used. Because the instruction, as given, was in accordance with existing case law, the higher court discerned no error. The instruction at issue contained language to the effect that a landowner has a duty to warn those on his or her property of hidden defects but is not required to issue a warning as to open and obvious dangers unless the landowner anticipates harm despite the obviousness of such conditions.

The court also ruled in favor of the defendants with regard to the statute of limitations instruction, noting that the porch had been installed no later than the late 1980s and, thus, any negligence claim stemming from the construction thereof was time-barred under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, § 2B.

Schedule a Free Consultation with a Cape Cod Attorney

Anyone can be injured on the job, but those in the construction industry are especially susceptible to work-related injuries due to the dangerous nature of their work. At the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, in Hyannis and Plymouth, our experienced Cape Cod injury attorneys represent those who have been hurt in falls from roofs on construction sites, as well as many other types of construction workplace accidents. For a free consultation, call us at 888-262-6664.

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