Massachusetts Superior Court Questions Validity of the “Transitory Water Doctrine”

A slip and fall accident can leave you with serious injuries and may interfere with your ability to earn a living. If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident, you might be able to recover monetary damages for your harm. At The Law Offices of Barry Feinstein & Affiliates, P.C., our trusted Massachusetts slip and fall attorneys are committed to aggressively protecting your rights and holding negligent property owners responsible.

The Holden Case

A Massachusetts Superior Court case recently discussed the accountability that can accompany the effects of snow, ice, rain and other adverse weather conditions. In Holden v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP, the judge questioned the long established “transitory water doctrine,” which has often shielded property owners from liability. The courts stated that it was a question of fact whether a shop owner can be held responsible for a slip and fall resulting from water brought into the property by another customer’s boots on a rainy day.

In the case at hand, a customer entered a Wal-Mart store on a rainy day. Upon entering, the customer fell because of water accumulation on the tile floor due to water that had been tracked in by other customers. Specifically, she slipped between the door and a mat, which was located a few feet away. The woman sued Wal-Mart for her injuries. Wal-Mart moved for summary judgment, claiming that the transitory water doctrine barred the plaintiff’s claim.

Transitory Water Doctrine

Since the mid 1970s, property owners have been guarded from liability in certain slip and fall incidents by the transitory water doctrine. Under the rule, business owners could not be held accountable for injuries stemming from “transitory conditions” of the property caused by regular use in wet weather. In other words, business owners were shielded from liability for injuries that took place due to dangerous conditions brought into the store by weather conditions.

The Holden Decision

In coming to a decision in this case, the court considered the 2010 case of Papadopoulos v. Target Corp., which got rid of the distinction between natural and unnatural accumulations of snow and ice and held that property owners had a legal obligation to make sure their property was in “reasonably safe” condition, including from dangers created from naturally accumulated snow and ice. Here, the judge applied the same rationale to the doctrine of transitory water and changed the old rule, concluding that, like in Papadopoulos, business owners have a duty to address dangerous conditions on the property, even if that condition is caused by a weather-related event and brought in from outside.

Skilled Massachusetts Injury Attorney

Business owners, who profit from their customers visiting stores, should take steps to ensure the property is safe and free of hazards. If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident, you need a skilled Massachusetts premises liability attorney on your side. At The Law Offices of Barry Feinstein & Affiliates, P.C., our team is committed to getting you the compensation you rightfully deserve for the harm that you suffered. For a free case evaluation, please call us today at 1-800-262-9200 or contact us online.

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