All business and property owners owe a basic duty to use reasonable care to combat the danger of slip and fall injuries on ice that everyone in Massachusetts faces each winter. Massachusetts is not alone in dealing with these dangers. Nationally is has been reported there were 20,000 injuries to workers in 2017 from ice, sleet and snow. Unfortunately, insurance companies often try to hide behind the veil of how hard the job can be to use reasonable care to protect others from falls on ice, by wrongly denying legitimate and fair claims. Massachusetts’ law disagrees, requiring all property owners to use reasonable care in the circumstances. Our law firm knows the law and is prepared to fight to the end for anyone, including Massachusetts Police Officers injured in falls on ice and snow.
Massachusetts Police Officer O’Brien awoke at 4 a.m. to an alert on his phone telling him it rained overnight. That spurred him to work protecting Massachusetts residents from dangerous poisoning. You see, one of Officer O’Brien’s responsibilities is to close fishing and clamming to allow for tides to clear toxins from shellfish beds and other marine life brought on by the rain washing roadway and lawn chemicals into the water. He does this by changing flags along the river from green to red. It is reported polluted runoff is “one of the greatest threats to clean water in the U.S.”
One such flag was located on a right of way owned by the town. This right of way connects the street to the river so everyone in the community could access the water; however, that did not stop Mr. Tasker, the owner of the neighboring property, from treating the right-of-way like it was his own. Mr. Tasker parked his boat on the right-of-way, grew a garden on it, and paved the top portion for extra parking. Over the years, Mr. Tasker learned the paved section, which was steeply sloped down towards the water, was always dangerous and covered in black ice when it rained in cold winter weather.
On the morning of this incident, Mr. Tasker sat in his home watching the rainfall. He realized the section of the right-of-way he paved was most likely icing up. Nevertheless, he stayed inside and enjoyed his morning coffee.
By the time Massachusetts Police Officer O’Brien reached the section of the right-of-way Mr. Tasker paved, a layer of black ice laid hidden beneath a thin blanket of snow. As Officer O’Brien walked towards the flag, his feet went out from under him and he fell. Officer O’Brien suffered a serious tear in his shoulder requiring surgery. That injury cost him months from work and thousands of dollars in lost overtime and detail pay.
Mr. Tasker’s insurer, Safety Insurance Company, denied Officer O’Brien’s claim. Safety Insurance blamed Officer O’Brien for not realizing the driveway was slippery and walking on it anyway. Our law firm asserted a claim under Massachusetts unfair insurance practice law against Safety Insurance for its denial. Safety then offered $50,000. We rejected the offer and filed a lawsuit.
During his deposition, Mr. Tasker made damaging admissions of what he knew as well as his lack of action the morning of Officer O’Brien’s slip and fall on the icy, paved right of way. Safety Insurance, though, stood fast and reasserted its $50,000 offer, relying on testimony from other officers of how icy the whole town was that morning. We continued to reject Safety’s offer.
At trial, Safety Insurance’s lawyer continued to blame the incident on Officer O’Brien. Deflecting blame from Mr. Tasker, Safety’s lawyer claimed the incident took place during an ongoing storm, which rendered the whole town icy. According to Safety Insurance’s lawyer, there was nothing to be done. Our expert’s analysis of the weather records, though, refuted that claim. We further expected our expert to discuss the dangers Mr. Tasker created by taking over and paving the right-of-way. On the eve of trial, though, the judge ruled to eliminate all testimony related to Mr. Tasker’s past actions regarding his adoption of the right-of-way. Instead, we were required to focus solely on what he did or did not do on the day of this incident. Despite our objections, we pressed on and proved our case based on a simple truth: Mr. Tasker knowingly failed to take the simple actions of shoveling and salting or sanding needed to make the right-of-way reasonably safe for people needing to get to the river from the road. On the stand, Mr. Tasker was forced to accept his prior testimony regarding his knowledge of the danger and his lack of action. Fortunately, the jury saw through to the truth of the case.
Once evidence was closed and deliberations began, the jury started submitting questions to the Court, which were favorable to our side. Safety Insurance doubled its offer to $100,000. Again, we refused. The jury ultimately delivered a $368,000 verdict to Officer O’Brien, which was over seven times Safety’s first offer.
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Our law firm is proud to represent all victims of slip and fall injuries, including injured Massachusetts Police Officers, Firefighters and Troopers. If you are injured in a slip and fall on someone else’s property, please take pictures of whatever caused your fall and contact our law firm as soon as you are able so we can investigate, evaluate your claim and begin preparing your case. We work on these cases on a contingent fee basis which means you owe us nothing unless we are successful on your case.
In order to protect the privacy of the injured officer and witnesses, all names have been changed. Any resemblance to names of real persons, past or present, is merely coincidental and not intended. The injured officer agreed to have this article published in order that public safety officers around the Commonwealth be better educated about their legal rights to compensation when injured.