Court Addresses Landowner’s Duties in Massachusetts Premises Liability Lawsuit

Recently, the Massachusetts Court of Appeals issued an opinion involving a lawsuit filed by plaintiffs on behalf of their son after the young boy suffered serious injuries falling from a zip line in a friend’s backyard. A superior court judge granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment. The plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the zip line was unreasonably dangerous, and the defendants were liable for their failure to warn the child of the danger.

According to the opinion, the plaintiffs brought their younger son with them when they went to pick up their older son from a sleepover at the defendants’ home. When they arrived, the defendants met the boy and his parents outside. The boy noticed a zip line between two trees and asked the defendants if he could use it. The defendant purchased and installed the zip line himself, but he did not include a seat. The boy’s father held him and guided him on the zip line, but he let go after a certain point. As he was traveling down the zip line, his hands began to slip, and although the boy’s father was able to grab him, the boy’s arm slammed into the ground, resulting in serious injuries requiring several surgeries.

The plaintiffs argued the defendants were negligent in not installing a safety seat, as the manufacturer recommended. They argued that the zip line was unreasonably dangerous, that the defendants negligently maintained the zip line and that they failed to warn or remedy the hazardous condition. The defendants countered that the danger of a six-year-old boy dangling from a zip line was obvious; therefore, a warning was not necessary.

Under Massachusetts premises liability laws, owners or possessors of property owe a duty of reasonable care to all people lawfully on their land. This includes ensuring that the premises are safe from unreasonable dangers. However, landowners do not need to protect visitors from apparent risks. In some cases, an open and obvious danger negates a defendant’s duty of care, and it is not relative to a specific plaintiff’s subjective reasonableness in facing the known hazard. Landowners owe a duty to the party that is supervising a child victim, and not to the child himself.

However, it is essential to note that Massachusetts premises liability victims may be able to recover for their injuries even if the open and obvious doctrine applies. The theory does not mean that owners can keep their property in unreasonably dangerous conditions, as long as the danger is open and visible. Rather, landowners still have a duty to remedy unreasonably dangerous and obvious conditions when the owner suspects that a visitor may encounter the danger.

In this case, the boy was on the defendants’ property with his parents, and his father helped him use the zip line. The defendants owed his father a duty to warn of any dangers of the zip line, and his father was expected to keep him safe. Further, the father had the opportunity to tell his son not to use the zip line, but he placed him in the position that led to his injury. The court found that the zip line was not unreasonably dangerous, and its risks were open and obvious.

Have You Suffered Injuries On Another Person or Business’ Property?

If you or someone you know has been injured while on another’s property, contact the Law Offices of Barry Feinstein and Affiliates P.C to discuss filing a Massachusetts premises liability claim. The lawyers at the Law Offices of Barry Feinstein and Affiliates P.C. have been fighting the big insurance companies for over 25 years, handling various personal injury lawsuits, including Massachusetts car accidents, medical malpractice, and wrongful death claims. The attorneys at our office have extensive and comprehensive knowledge of Massachusetts personal injury laws. These skills and knowledge have led to our clients recovering substantial compensation for their damages. Contact our office at 800-262-9200 to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney at our law firm.

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