A few winters ago, Mr. Sampson attended a wake for his friend’s mother. He entered the building through a rear entrance; paid his respects; and then a funeral home employee held the door open as Mr. Sampson exited through the front entrance. Mr. Sampson made his way over to the handrail on the right side of the stairs; however, the front entrance was constructed in such a way that the handrail was not accessible until you were already on the first step down from the landing. To make matters worse, much of the stairs were covered with untreated ice. Sure enough, Mr. Sampson suffered a slip and fall on ice and fell down the icy stairs and injured his left knee.
Mr. Sampson sustained a ruptured quadriceps tendon, which required two repair surgeries (one revision), two forced knee joint manipulation procedures under anesthesia, and extensive physical therapy. In addition, it would be nearly a year before he was cleared to return to work as a police officer.
WE QUICKLY OBTAINED PHOTOS, WITNESS STATEMENTS, AND HIRED AN EXPERT LAWYER
My settlement demand to the Funeral Home’s insurer, Acme Insurance Company, included everything Acme needed to evaluate liability. In addition to medical records and bills, documentation of Mr. Sampson’s lost wages, I provided Acme with photographs and witness statements, which confirmed the icy condition on the front stairs at the time of the fall. In addition, I obtained a report by an expert architect/engineer, which confirmed the Funeral Home should have been aware the front entrance as constructed was generally unsafe and that ice was likely to form based on recent weather as well as indications of water flow like staining (see Papadopoulos v. Target Corp., 457 Mass. 368, 383 (2010). The Papadopoulos case is notable in that the Court declared property owners must use reasonable care to protect people from being injured on their property due to falls on ice and snow, regardless of whether the accumulation of snow and ice was natural or unnatural.
As for damages, I secured an expert report from Mr. Sampson’s own surgeon, which confirmed the injuries, subsequent treatment, and permanent impairment were all caused by this incident. I also provided documents showing Mr. Sampson’s past earning history as a police officer to evidence the valuable overtime hours Mr. Sampson was unable to work (Although Mr. Sampson’s injury was sustained off-duty, my firm often writes articles and presents webinars about how Massachusetts police officers and firefighters have the same rights as any other citizen to be compensated for the various harms and losses which result from their injuries-on-duty caused by responsible third parties. M.G.L. Chapter. 41 Section 111F, which provides injury-on-duty benefits, also authorizes these claims).
Nevertheless, four months went by without an offer from Acme. To justify its delayed response, Acme’s claim adjuster requested documents we had already provided, sent me pro-forma letters, and asserted over the phone about how he was pushing to get authority to make an offer.
OUR MASSACHUSETTS PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEYS DEMAND RELEIF PURSUANT TO M.G.L. CHAPTERS 93A AND 176D FOR UNFAIR AND DECEPTIVE INSURANCE CLAIMS SETTLEMENT PRACTICES
Another month had passed when the adjuster left me a voicemail that he had run this claim “up the flagpole” and offered no timetable for an offer. This was the last straw. I responded to this inaction by sending what is commonly referred to as a “93A demand letter” to Acme’s corporate office.
My letter asserted that Acme’s ongoing failure to conduct a good-faith investigation and make any settlement offer despite clear liability constituted unfair claim settlement practices in violation of M.G.L. Ch.93A and M.G.L. c. 176D(3)(9). The purpose of these statutes is to encourage settlement of insurance claims and discourage insurers from forcing claimants into unnecessary litigation to obtain relief (Clegg v. Butler, 424 Mass. 413, 419 (1997)). I also highlighted in my 93A letter Massachusetts caselaw that a five-month delay in responding to a settlement demand was an unfair insurance claims practice (Gore v. Arbella Mut. Ins. Co., 77 Mass. App. Ct. 518, 526 (2010)).
Soon after sending my 93A letter, I began discussions with the attorney Acme tasked with defending against our prospective 93A claim and handling negotiations. I made clear that we were prepared to take this case to trial, obtain a judgment against the Funeral Home, and then pursue a separate lawsuit against Acme for the Ch. 93A claim, the damages for which could be up to three times the amount of a judgment against the Funeral Home (see M.G.L. Ch.93A s.9(3A)).
Fortunately, sanity and fairness prevailed. Only a few weeks after sending my 93A letter, Acme’s attorney made an initial offer. Negotiations then proceeded back and forth as negotiations usually do. Mr. Sampson ultimately agreed to settle his injury claim against the Funeral Home and the 93A claim against Acme for a total of $350,000. Given how contested slip and fall on ice cases often get as well as the injection of the 93A claim, I was glad to have achieved this result for Mr. Sampson without ever having to file a lawsuit.
Injured in a Slip and Fall? Contact Ballin Law For A Free Consultation
If you or anyone you know has been injured in a slip and fall on someone else’s property, please reach out to us as soon as possible. Visit Ballin Law to learn more about how we help victims injured in slip and fall on ice.
In order to protect the privacy of the injured person 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 person agreed to have this article published in order to better educate everyone about their legal rights to compensation when injured.