Massachusetts Court Reverses Summary Judgment in Case in Which Body Shop Employees’ Use of Hose May Have Created Ice that Led to Fall on Public Street – Fleming v. A Plus Auto Body, Inc.

When the negligence of a landowner or business operator causes a guest or customer to fall and suffer injuries, the injured person can file a premises liability lawsuit to seek monetary compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.

Typically, the defendant in such a case will attempt to avoid a finding of liability by claiming that the plaintiff was at fault, that some intervening act caused the accident, or, as in a recent case, that the defendant was not legally responsible for the property on which the plaintiff fell.

Facts of the Case

In the recent (unreported) case of Fleming v. A Plus Auto Body, Inc., the plaintiff was a woman who slipped and fell on a patch of ice while en route to retrieve her vehicle from the defendant body shop’s place of business in 2013. Before her fall, the woman had parked her rental vehicle on the street. She sought damages for personal injuries (including a broken leg) that she suffered in the fall.

The defendant moved for summary judgment on the grounds that it did not own or control the street on which the plaintiff fell and that there was no admissible evidence indicating that it created the buildup of ice on which the woman fell. The trial court agreed with the defendant and granted summary judgment in its favor.

Decision of the Appeals Court

On appeal by the plaintiff, the court reversed the trial court’s order granting summary judgment to the defendant. Although the court agreed that certain unsworn statements by witnesses were properly disregarded in the lower court, the appellate court found that there was additional evidence on which a finding of causation could be made. Although the defendant did not own the street on which the plaintiff fell, there was deposition testimony that the patch of ice that caused the fall may have resulted from the use of a hose by the defendant’s employees.

Given that there was less than an inch of precipitation in the 30 days prior to the accident, and the temperature on the day before the accident was 60 degrees, the court found that a reasonable inference could be drawn that the ice upon which the plaintiff fell was not caused by natural precipitation.

Since there was a genuine issue of material fact as to causation, the court remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings.

For Help with a Slip and Fall Case on Cape Cod

If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury due to a fall on someone else’s property, you should talk to an attorney about the possibility of filing a negligence action against the party whose actions or inaction caused your fall. The experienced Cape Cod premises liability attorneys at the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, will be glad to set up an appointment to discuss your legal rights. Call us at 888-262-6664 to schedule a time to come in to either our Hyannis or Plymouth offices to get started on your case.

Related Blog Posts

Massachusetts Woman’s Premises Liability Claim Against Inn Fails Due to Her Uncertainty About Cause of Fall – Stewart v. Five Bridge Inn, LLC

“Mode of Operation” Approach Applicable in Injured Woman’s Premises Liability Lawsuit against Massachusetts Night Club – Sarkisian v. Concept Restaurants, Inc.

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