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

Premises liability lawsuits can arise from a number of circumstances:  negligent maintenance, defective design, and debris left in walking areas, just to name a few. In these types of cases, sometimes referred to as slip and fall or trip and fall accidents, an injured person can potentially recover damages for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages if he or she is able to make out a successful case of negligence against the property owner.

Of course, this is sometimes easier said than done, since the property owner’s insurance company will often fight tooth and nail to avoid paying a claim, even when serious injuries have resulted. As with other negligence lawsuits, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to show each element of the case by a preponderance of the evidence.

Facts of the Case

In the recent unreported case of Stewart v. Five Bridge Inn, LLC, the plaintiff filed a negligence action against the defendant, alleging that the inn had been negligent in its control of its premises and that this had caused her to suffer injuries. In particular, the plaintiff averred that she had suffered a broken tibia and fibula after falling on the inn’s property while attending a wedding in 2011 and that her fall may have been caused by an irregularly sized rock that was embedded in the gravel parking lot of the inn. However, the plaintiff did admit that she was wearing three-inch heels at the time of the accident and that she was not absolutely sure whether the rock was to blame for her fall.

The inn moved for summary judgment, urging that the case against it should be dismissed because the plaintiff had failed to establish that her injuries resulted from a defective condition on the inn’s property. The trial court granted summary judgment to the inn, and the plaintiff appealed.

The Appellate Court’s Opinion

The Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed the trial court’s entry of summary judgment in favor of the inn. The court first reiterated the basic requirements of a negligence lawsuit. The plaintiff must show that the defendant owed him or her a duty of reasonable care, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant breached the duty owed to him or her, the plaintiff must demonstrate that he or she was harmed in the accident, and there must be a causal relationship between the breach of duty and the damages.

After stressing that causation is an essential element of proof in a negligence case, including a premises liability case, the court agreed with the trial court that the plaintiff had failed to show a causal relationship between the inn’s alleged breach of duty and her injuries. Since she, herself, did not have a firm knowledge of the cause of her fall, her claim that the inn was at fault was merely speculation and conjecture.

To Speak to an Experienced Massachusetts Premises Liability Attorney

Unfortunately, the plaintiff in this case did not prevail. However, every case is unique, and injured persons should not be dissuaded from asserting their legal rights simply because of the result of another case with different facts. If you would like to talk to a knowledgeable Massachusetts premises liability attorney about your possible case, contact the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, at (888)262-6664. We will be happy to set up an appointment for you at either our Hyannis or Plymouth offices.

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