A parent attending a parent-teacher conference in February 2011 slipped on accumulated ice on the walkway. Despite the school having the duty to provide safe entrance for lawful visitors to the school, the School failed to remove the ice and/or sufficiently treat this ice to prevent injuries to visitors. The injured parent sued the City for negligence. In its defense, the municipality stated that the parent’s injury claims were barred. The City claimed that a Massachusetts state statute did not allow the injured party to recover against the City for its ordinary negligence.
Massachusetts General Law Chapter 21, Section 17C states “Any person having an interest in land including the structures, building and equipment attached to the land, who lawfully permits the public to sue such land for recreational, conservation, scientific, educational, environmental, ecological, research, religious and charitable purposes without imposing a charge or fee, therefore, without the, … shall not be liable for personal injuries or property damage sustained by such members of the public … while on said land in the absence of willful, wanton, or reckless conduct by such person.” (emphasis added). In interpreting the statute, the Supreme Judicial Court, Massachusetts highest state court, determined that the statute did not apply to parent attending a parent-teacher conference inasmuch as the statute only landowners when the property is open to the general public. Given that the parent-teacher conference was limited to only specific individuals, the parents of the children who attended the school, the school was not open to the general public and, therefore, the statute was inapplicable. The Supreme Judicial Court determined that the injured parent may recover against the school for negligently failing to treat the accumulated ice.
This case demonstrates the need for the injury victim’s attorney to review carefully the statutes to ensure the injury victim recovers for his or her injuries. If you have any questions regarding an injury taking place on municipal property, please contact an attorney at Hamblett & Kerrigan to discuss. Let Hamblett & Kerrigan use their experience in representing injury victims to your advantage.
Kevin P. Rauseo is a former director at Hamblett & Kerrigan P.A. and has since been appointed as a Justice for the New Hampshire Circuit Court. Please feel free to contact another attorney at Hamblett & Kerrigan to discuss your legal issues.