During a cold and snowy winter, a big snow storm made its way through Massachusetts. In the afternoon, shortly after the snow storm had stopped, our client slipped and fell down the front steps of her apartment building and suffered serious injuries.
Her personal injury lawsuit arising from her slip and fall accident proceeded to a jury trial in the Norfolk Superior Court in Dedham, Massachusetts. Just before the end of her jury trial, the landlord’s insurance company agreed to pay $125,000 to settle the case.
Summary of the Case Facts
Our client is a woman who was in her early 50s at the time of her fall. She lived on the third floor of a residential apartment building in Stoughton, Massachusetts. On a cold and snowy morning, she stayed in her apartment and waited for the snow storm to stop. Her landlord, who owned the apartment building, also owned the business next door to the apartment. In the morning hours on the day of her fall, our client looked outside her window and saw her landlord and his employees plowing, shoveling and salting the business property next door.
After the snow had stopped in the afternoon, our client needed to run an errand. When she opened the front door to her apartment, she noticed that her landlord hadn’t shoveled the front stoop or steps of the apartment building. She carefully attempted to walk down the snow-covered front steps. As she walked down the concrete steps, she slipped and fell on her side. She felt immediate pain in her shoulder and collar bone area. Our client managed to get back to her feet and up to her apartment. She realized that her injuries were serious and called 911.
When the first responders arrived, they evaluated her and transported her to the emergency room of a local hospital in Stoughton, MA. Before she was taken to the hospital, this woman made a great decision and took photographs of the snow-covered front steps.
Her Injuries and Treatment
When she arrived at the emergency room, the doctors immediately took x-rays of her clavicle. The x-rays revealed a displaced fracture of her collar bone. A displaced fracture is where a bone breaks in two pieces and the bones are no longer lined up. Due to the severity of her injury, the emergency room doctors recommended surgery.
This client underwent an open reduction internal fixation surgical operation to repair the displaced fracture to her clavicle. During this procedure, the surgeon was able to reduce the bones back into place and used a titanium plate and several screws to hold the bone in place. Following the surgery, this woman underwent a conservative course of physical therapy.
Toward the end of her physical therapy, our client began to experience complications. The complications resulted in a second surgery to remove the hardware that was inserted during the first surgery. As a result, our client was left with a relatively large scar across her clavicle area. She reached a decent medical end result but did continue to experience some residual pain and sensitivity to the area of her injury.
How the Case Proceeded and Settled
The landlord’s insurance company refused to accept responsibility for the slip and fall accident and denied the bodily injury claim. We immediately filed a personal injury lawsuit alleging that the landlord was negligent by failing to take reasonable steps to make sure that his apartment building was free from the hazards of snow and ice. The negligence theory was based upon the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling in Papadopoulos v. Target Corp, 457 Mass. 368 (2010). In that case, the Court held that property owners have a duty to act as a reasonable person under all of the circumstances, including the likelihood of injury to others, when dealing with snow and ice on their property, regardless of whether the snow and ice had accumulated naturally or unnaturally. Pursuant to this ruling, property owners are responsible to remove or treat snow and ice like any other dangerous condition on their property.
Once all discovery was completed during the discovery phase of the lawsuit, a trial was scheduled. Prior to the trial, the insurance company and their lawyers refused to offer a settlement. They continued to maintain that the landlord was not negligent and asserted that our client was more than 50% responsible for her own injuries pursuant to their comparatively negligence defense. This is not uncommon in slip and fall accident cases, so we thoroughly prepared for trial.
The trial began on a Monday in the Norfolk Superior Court. Some crucial evidence in this case were the photographs that our client took on the day of her fall. These photographs were entered into evidence and gave the jury a clear picture of the snow-covered front steps on the day of the fall. This is a prime example of why it is always recommended to take photographs of the dangerous or hazardous condition that caused a slip and fall.
After our client testified and the photographs were shown to the jury, the insurance company finally made an offer of settlement. Their offer, however, was only for $50,000. We rejected the offer and continued with the trial.
During the trial, the landlord was called to testify and was thoroughly cross-examined by Attorney Joe Mahaney. The cross-examination established that the landlord owned the business next door to the apartment building and that he was plowing and shoveling the snow at his business. Attorney Mahaney was able to illicit testimony from the landlord that he did not shovel or otherwise remove the snow on the front steps of the apartment building despite the fact that he was right next door all morning.
After four days of trial and right before closing arguments, the landlord’s insurance company offered $125,000 to settle the case. Our client felt that this settlement offer was more than fair and gladly accepted the offer. This settlement offer covered our client’s medical bills and lost wages and compensated her for her pain and suffering as well as the scar that resulted from her surgeries.
Speak With An Experienced Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorney Today
If you have been injured in an accident and have questions about what your rights are or if you are entitled to financial compensation, feel free to call us at (508) 879-3500 or contact us online. We offer complimentary case evaluations and are more than happy to answer your questions and explain how we may be able to help you.