Jan 12 2017

Courtroom Success 2017-1: Morrison Mahoney Associate Chris Davidson

Morrison Mahoney Associate Chris Davidson obtained summary judgment on behalf of an apartment complex and its property management company against a tenant who tripped and fell on a sidewalk.

The plaintiff alleged that she tripped and fell on the edge of a sidewalk that connected her building to the parking lot. The plaintiff could not identify exactly where she fell along the sidewalk, but claimed that the change in elevation between the sidewalk and the abutting grass had caused her to fall. On these facts, the plaintiff maintained she was injured due to a premises defect. Importantly, the greatest change in elevation between the sidewalk and grass was half an inch.

Chris argued that the half-inch change in elevation was de minimis and as a matter of law, there was no premises defect. The plaintiff argued that the “de minimis defect rule” is no longer recognized in Massachusetts, and also argued that the defense was only available to municipalities, which none of the defendants were. Chris successfully refuted these claims, demonstrating that this concept remains good law and it applied to private entities, including his clients.

The plaintiff had made a six-figure demand after suffering a right knee and ankle injury which resulted in surgery. She sought additional damages from the insurer pursuant to Chapter 93A and Chapter 176D, alleging that the insurer failed to make any settlement offer when liability was reasonably clear. By obtaining summary judgment on behalf of the defendants, claims against all parties, including the insurer, were dismissed.

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