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Under Massachusetts law, individuals who suffer a fall on another’s property may be entitled to compensation for the injuries they sustained. However, Massachusetts slip and fall lawsuits are rarely as straightforward as they may seem. Plaintiffs in these cases must meet their evidentiary burden to recover against the negligent property owner.

Generally, plaintiffs possess the burden of proof in Massachusetts personal injury cases, and defendants do not need to prove that they are not liable for the victim’s injuries. Massachusetts premises liability law provides that property owners have a duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition for lawful visitors. As a threshold requirement, plaintiffs who want to recover against a property owner must be able to establish negligence. Slip and fall plaintiffs must be able to show that the property owner owed the visitor a duty of care, they breached that duty, and that breach caused the victim an injury.

Massachusetts slip and fall plaintiffs must be able to prove by a “preponderance of the evidence” that the property owner violated their duty based on the general public’s views regarding acceptable behavior. Premises liability cases often vary depending on the type of property, visitor, and accident. However, regardless of the circumstances, most plaintiffs face challenges when trying to prove that the property owner did not take “reasonable” steps to keep their condition in “reasonably” safe condition. Issues often arise because reasonableness can be subjective, and the existence of a duty to act reasonably does not necessarily amount to negligence. Further, the law does not impose a burden on landowners to maintain their property in a way that ensures absolute safety for unforeseeable events.

Massachusetts premises liability law provides injury victims with a way to recover for injuries they suffered because of a landowner or occupier’s negligence. Generally, the law requires that property owners take reasonable measures to maintain a safe environment. Liability for injuries depends on the type of accident, visitor, and whether the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazardous condition.

The most common types of accidents that lead to a premises liability lawsuit include injuries related to slip and falls, trips on broken steps or stairs, dog bites, inadequate lighting or maintenance, and swimming pool accidents. The duty a property owner owes to the injury victims may vary depending on whether the visitor was an invitee, licensee, or trespasser. Finally, in most cases, the plaintiff must be able to establish that the property owner had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition.

Premises liability against negligent landlords can be challenging because landlords will often claim that they were not aware of the dangerous condition. However, landlords may be liable if the plaintiff establishes that the defective condition was under the landlord’s control, the landlord negligently or carelessly made repairs, or they concealed a dangerous situation. For example, according to a recent news report, a landlord in nearby New York state was sentenced to prison and will likely face civil charges for knowingly concealing a gas line that caused a deadly explosion. The gas company notified the landlord that a proposed gas line was unsafe and would not be approved; however, the landlord continued to rent units by siphoning gas from a neighboring building. The landlord instructed workers to turn off the gas when the gas company inspector was visiting. Moments after the gas company left the premises, the workers turned the gas back on, resulting in a huge blast causing two buildings to collapse and several injuries and deaths.

Holiday parties are a popular way for employers to “rally the troops” and boost morale at a time of year when, quite frankly, few people want to be at work. However, over recent years, holiday parties have been the focus of much scrutiny, as concerns about sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and the over-serving of alcohol have come to light. Indeed, there is a noticeable increase in the number of Massachusetts drunk driving accidents during the holiday months, and this is in part due to people getting behind the wheel after having too much to drink at a work holiday party.

Under the Massachusetts dram shop and social host laws, employers often have a legal obligation to ensure that they do not over-serve employees at a work holiday party. If the holiday party is held at a restaurant, country club, or bar, that duty will also extend to the business hosting the event. While establishing liability in a Boston dram shop case can be difficult, it is possible with the help of an experienced Massachusetts personal injury lawyer.

Establishing liability against a social host is slightly different than doing so against a restaurant or bar. Typically, the threshold is lower to prove that a bar or restaurant negligently served or over-served alcohol to a patron. However, if there is evidence showing that a social host knew a guest was intoxicated, but served them alcohol anyway, the host may be liable for any damages that stem from the decision to serve that individual.

After a serious Massachusetts car accident, the chances are that anyone who was injured faces hefty medical expenses. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident, the at-fault party may be facing criminal charges for their role in causing the accident. If an at-fault party is convicted, they may be fined, placed on probation, or even incarcerated. In some cases, they will also be required to pay restitution to the accident victim.

However, the criminal process is not typically concerned with obtaining compensation for accident victims. Criminal law is designed to punish those who violate the law, rather than compensate those who are injured as a result of the defendant’s violation of the law. While providing restitution to accident victims is one aspect of the criminal justice system, any assistance provided is usually minimal and cannot be relied on.

First, an accident victim has little to no say about whether criminal charges are brought against another driver. The decision to bring charges rests with the county prosecutor, who may not decide to press charges except in the most egregious traffic accidents. Second, a defendant’s insurance company will not cover any restitution damages awarded by a court. Thus, an accident victim relies on a defendant’s ability to pay the restitution on their own, which may take months, years, or may never happen. In some cases, accident victims may be eligible for compensation through a Victim’s Compensation Fund, but even this process is often unreliable.

Over the past few years, thousands of product liability cases have been filed against consumer product giant, Johnson & Johnson, based on the company’s baby powder and other talc-based products. Those in Massachusetts who have been affected by Johnson & Johnson baby powder may be able to recover compensation for any injury or illness they suffered as a result of using Johnson & Johnson baby powder through a Massachusetts product liability lawsuit.

According to a recent article by the New York Times, Johnson & Johnson currently faces upwards of 16,000 lawsuits. The plaintiffs in these cases suffered serious illness from using the company’s talc-based baby powder, including lung disease, ovarian cancer, and mesothelioma, which is a cancer of the lining of internal organs that is most often associated with asbestos exposure.

Recently, in an interesting development in the baby-powder litigation, the State of New Mexico filed a claim against Johnson & Johnson claiming that the company misled consumers about the safety of the company’s baby powder. In his complaint against Johnson & Johnson, the Attorney General of New Mexico states that the company continued to market and sell the baby powder for decades, all while knowing the safety risks the product posed. What makes the New Mexico case especially interesting is that it alleges for the first time that the company specifically targeted children and black and Hispanic women.

Winter weather, including snow and ice, is a major cause of Massachusetts car accidents. Each year, Massachusetts gets about four feet of rain and another four feet of snow. On top of that, there are on average 90 days in which the temperature reaches below freezing. As a result, Massachusetts roads can be very hazardous to both drivers and pedestrians during the winter months.

Poor weather conditions can impact road safety in several important ways. Of course, when roads are covered in snow or ice, drivers have a harder time maintaining control of their vehicles. This is especially the case the morning after a heavy storm, when frozen snow or ice has had a chance to melt and then re-freeze as temperatures decrease overnight.

Winter weather can also result in a driver’s inability to evade a hazard that they may otherwise have been able to avoid. For example, just last week there was a 69-car pile-up on a Virginia highway. According to the New York Times, the chain-reaction accident began in the westbound lanes of the highway shortly after 8 a.m. Evidently, the roads were icy and a heavy fog had rolled in that morning.

In a recent Massachusetts insurance dispute, the state’s high court found that consent-to-settle clauses are enforceable and do not violate public policy. The decision came in response to an engineering malpractice lawsuit that Massachusetts homeowners filed against a professional home engineer.

According to the court’s opinion, the homeowners hired the engineer to design and construct portions of their new home. The engineer signed an agreement with the town but underestimated the number of loads in his calculations. The engineer filed several inaccurate control reports and falsely certified that they complied with the applicable building codes. Shortly after construction, the defects became apparent, and after a confrontation, the engineer admitted to his miscalculations. The homeowners filed several claims against the engineer and his insurer.

The insurance company and the engineer had an agreement that the insurance company would not settle any claims without his consent. The homeowners asked for over $1 million in damages, but the engineer refused to settle for more than $100,000, despite the insurance company advising him that he faced a seven-figure settlement. The engineer was found liable for $460,000, which was paid partially by his insurance company. The homeowners then amended their complaint against the insurance company, arguing that they violated a state law that requires prompt settlements.

Massachusetts laws provide nursing home residents with protections when residing in a nursing home or assisted living facility. These residents are entitled to appropriate medical care, a habitable environment, rights to make decisions regarding their care, daily care and attention, and freedom from abuse and neglect. Nursing home facilities that do not comply with these requirements may face liability for injuries that their residents sustain through a Massachusetts nursing home negligence lawsuit.

Despite strict rules and regulations regarding safety standards, many nursing homes barely pass inspections. Others outright engage in prohibited behaviors. Residents may not be able to articulate their injuries effectively, and loved ones must remain vigilant in spotting signs of abuse or neglect. Some common forms of nursing home abuse include:

  • Verbal abuse, such as yelling threats and derogatory comments;
  • Emotional abuse, such as withholding care;
  • Physical abuse, such as shaking, kicking, and punching;
  • Financial abuse, such as unlawfully taking control of a resident’s bank accounts; and
  • Sexual assault.

There are some less obvious signs that abuse may be occurring, such as unexplained weight fluctuations, sedation, unexplained illnesses, depression, and infections. Nursing homes must abide by federal regulations regarding the care of their patients and the condition of their facilities. If they do not, they may face criminal and civil liability.

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Car accident victims who hope to recover compensation for their injuries from a negligent motorist must be able to provide the court with evidence supporting their theory of fault and liability. Massachusetts plaintiffs can meet their burden by presenting police reports, medical records, eyewitness accounts, and expert testimony. Whether expert testimony is required (or even allowed) largely depends on the particular facts of the accident and the issues that are involved.

Expert witnesses are a valuable resource in personal injury lawsuits because these witnesses can provide specialized opinions based on technical knowledge that typically goes beyond the scope of knowledge of a layperson. Attorneys frequently utilize expert witnesses in personal injury lawsuits to support a client’s position. Some common types of expert witnesses are accident reconstructionists, city planners, toxicologists, and medical examiners.

Expert witnesses are generally people who possess education, experience, and training in a particular field relevant to the issues at hand. When qualifying a professional as an expert, courts will look at factors such as the individual’s academic background and peer-reviewed publications, as well as their professional experience, recognition, and reputation. Expert witness testimony is presumed to be unbiased based on their specialized knowledge, and courts will permit their opinions as long as they meet certain criteria. Experts’ opinions must assist the judge or jury in understanding the evidence, and an opinion must be based on the facts of the case and research conducted by the expert. Notably, the expert’s methods must be trustworthy, and the processes must have been appropriately applied to the present issue. When an expert is necessary, plaintiffs must retain a qualified expert to ensure that the court permits their opinion.

Injuries resulting from medical malpractice are very disturbing and can have lifelong effects on the victim and their family. However, pediatric medical malpractice can be even more devastating because, in many instances, the victim cannot articulate their damages or advocate on behalf of themselves. Massachusetts medical malpractice lawsuits are typically complex, and victims and their families should retain qualified and experienced attorneys to handle these lawsuits.

Pediatric medical malpractice lawsuits often stem from birth injuries, misdiagnoses, delayed diagnoses or treatment, medication errors, or mismanagement of symptoms and diseases. For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that meningitis is one of the most commonly misdiagnosed illnesses. When medical professionals fail to diagnose or treat meningitis appropriately, the damage may be irreversible and potentially fatal. Furthermore, another frequently mistreated pediatric ailment is appendicitis. Other common conditions, such as urinary tract infections and pelvic inflammatory disease, often mask the symptoms of appendicitis. However, trained doctors and medical professionals should be able to accurately and quickly diagnose appendicitis. A misdiagnosis can cause young children to encounter unbearable pain and lifelong issues.

Finally, medication and vaccine errors can cause young children to experience a severe and potentially irreversible injury. Research indicates that over five percent of pediatric medical malpractice lawsuits occur after a medical professional incorrectly orders a medication, improperly administers a vaccine or medication, or provides incorrect information regarding a dose. For example, recently, a federal appellate court addressed a case in which a premature four-month-old died after receiving his routine vaccines. In that case, medical examiners concluded that the child died as a result of SIDS; however, the incident highlighted the importance of proper administration and follow-up care of particularly high-risk patients, including premature babies.