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by Ron Davis
Thirteen years after an elderly man suffered a hip injury from a fall at a Massachusetts shopping center, justice may finally have reached a conclusion in the ensuing lawsuit.
The shopping center is Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers. And the injured man died before a state court could rule in the case.
At the time of the man’s injury, the weather was typical for a winter’s day in Massachusetts, with snow blanketing the Danvers area. Nevertheless, the elderly man had driven to the shopping center and parked his car in the center’s parking lot with the intention of shopping at a Target store located there.
Earlier that morning, the snow-removal contractor for the shopping center had inspected the center’s parking lot and applied salt and sand. The contractor did not report any snow or ice hazards to center personnel.
Moreover, a center employee was charged with inspecting the parking lot before the stores’ opening for the day. Finally, throughout the day, center employees who retrieved shopping carts that shoppers left in the parking lot were expected to be on the lookout for snow and ice hazards.
The elderly man arrived at the shopping center just before noon. Because he suffered from asthma and severe chronic osteoarthritis in both knees, among other health ailments, he parked his car in a handicap parking space.
Apparently aware of the foul weather conditions, he said he wore shoes with “very good” soles with “lots of tread.” But he said as he exited his car, he noticed piles of snow and a large icy area that extended from the median and at a distance of four or five feet from his car.
He added that while walking to the shopping center, he tried to avoid the icy areas and a “conspicuous piece of ice,” which he described as being “half the size of a football.”
He said he managed to reach the shopping center, where he shopped for half an hour, then left with “a small bag of merchandise.”
While walking to his car, however, he apparently stepped on a piece of ice that caused him to fall to the ground. He later said he had not seen the ice piece that caused him to trip, although he later described the ice piece as “about half the size of a soccer ball, black, and covered in snow and sand.”
He and his wife subsequently sued, alleging negligence and loss of consortium. But prior to trial, both died, leaving the matter in the hands of a relative. Then at trial, a jury found Target eighty percent negligent.
On appeal, however, a Massachusetts appellate court agreed with the conclusion that the piece of ice causing the elderly man’s fall had been present for such a length of time that Target should have known about it and “acted accordingly.”
(Mass.App.Ct,,2015, Papadopoulos v. Target Corp., 2015 WL 1767867 [Mass.App.Ct])
Decision: May 2015
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