Boston Supreme Judicial Court Updates Slip and Fall Law

Slip and fall victims in Massachusetts are the beneficiary of new law. Massachusetts has adopted a new standard regarding premises liability law with regard to grocery stores, for example, and other self-service retailers. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, the state’s highest court, sitting in Boston, Massachusetts, decided Sheehan v. Roche Brothers Supermarkets, Inc., which lightens the victim’s burden of proof in slip and fall cases.

In this case, a supermarket customer fell after slipping on a grape. She was in the hospital for a month. The trial court followed the law which is that a property owner must maintain the property in “reasonably safe condition in view of all of the circumstances” including the changes of injury. This has been interpreted to be that property owners are responsible only when they knew or should have known of a dangerous condition, and had sufficient warning to fix it.
In this case, however, the Supreme Judicial Court noted that times have changed; stores are no longer “manned” but set up, largely by outside venders, and have become self service retailers. The Court looked at the new “mode of operation” approach and said that Courts should now look at the reasonable foreseeability of a customer’s carelessness. That is, if the mode of operation can result in a dangerous condition, the store must take precautions to protect the customer.
Wherefore, now to a claim a victim must: 1. show that his or her injury was because of a foreseeable dangerous condition that was on the defendant’s property; 2. That the condition was related to the property owner’s self-service mode of operation; 3. That the property owner failed to take reasonable measures to fix the problem; and 4. prove that the owner acted unreasonably.
We have represented clients injured in slip and fall accidents for over 25 years, and are dedicated to protecting consumer’s rights.