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Litigating Premises Liability Cases

When a plaintiff is on someone else’s property and is injured as a result of some dangerous condition on the property, the type of legal action likely to be filed is known as a premises liability case.  A Boston premises liability cases is plead under a theory of negligence and alleges that the defendant did not maintain the property in such as condition so as to make it reasonably safe for lawful entrants onto the land.premises liability

Standard of Care in Boston Premises Liability Cases

In Massachusetts, the law regarding the duty of due care owed to lawful occupants on the property was drastically altered as compared to what it was and still is in many other states in a 1973 cases captioned Wilbur M. Mounsey v. P. Ellard & Another (363 Mass. 693).   Prior to this case, the law required a distinction between invitees and licensees when determining if the landowner owed a duty of due care to maintain the property in a safe condition and warn lawful occupants of known, yet hidden, dangers. As our Boston premises liability attorneys can explain, theses distinctions came from England at a time when landownership and the rights of landowners was much differently viewed than it is today.  These days, having land can make one wealthy, but back then, after William the Conqueror came to power, they used the Feudal Tenure system in where a landowner could grow crops and provide a tribute to the king.  A landowner could also raise knights to supply to the king in a time of war and this afforded the landowner a of clout.

Invitee vs. Licensee in Boston premises liability cases

While the names are somewhat confusing an invitee or business invitee if we are dealing with a plaintiff who was invited on the land to conduct some type of business. This essentially means spending money on the property.  In the other hand, there is an invitee who is only invited on the land, which is not open to the general public, and may be there for purely personal reasons.  This is sometimes known as social invitee.  At common law, a landowner had a duty to warn of a known hidden danger.  The licensee is owed a duty of due care in which the landowner must make the property reasonably safe for any lawful occupants.

When the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) did away with these distinctions in Mounsey, the duty of care to all lawful occupants is to act a reasonable and prudent landowner with respect to all lawful occupants.  This is more in line with the elements in a standard personal injury case in which the defendant owes a duty of due care to act in a reasonable and prudent person so as to prevent foreseeable harm to foreseeable persons and property.

Legionnaires Disease at Disneyland

According to a recent case news article from CNN, Disneyland in California had to shut down some of its cooling tower after the local public health department discovered instances of park guests developing legionnaires disease. For large complexes like amusement parks or underground T stations, it is commonly very hot due to the lack of airflow and all of the machinery.  Instead of using traditional air conditioners, which are air-cooled, engineers will use a water chilled system.  This means that they will also need one or more cooling towers that collect the excess mix of hot air and water and cool it before releasing it into the environment.

At Disneyland, at least 9 people became infected with legionnaires disease, and the public heath department immediately notified park ownership.  There were three other victims who were not at the theme park who also developed the disease and one of them died, but it was reported that she other health issues that may have contributed to her death. All of the patients who ranged in age from 10 and 94 were hospitalized after contracting this disease. Fortunately, one cannot get the disease from another person who already has it.

Once the park operators learned of the disease and searched the park for possible sources of contamination, they discovered the cooling towers.  These towers were shut down and treated with chemicals to kill the bacteria.  The health department does not believe there is any future risk of contamination from the park. They did however, bring the towers back into operation, and then had to shut them down once again after cultures tested positive for the potentially fatal bacteria.  There have been no accusations of negligence against the park owners as of this time.

Claim Evaluation in Boston Personal Injury Cases

In a case similar to this, the question is not whether the cooling tower system contained the bacteria, but rather if a property owner acted reasonably with respect to maintaining the cooling system.  If the company followed all required testing and sanitation procedures, and the contamination occurred anyway, this might be an accident for which they were not negligently responsible.  If other hand,  shortcuts were taken and inspections were missed, this could be used as proof of negligence.

We are generally dealing with a situation that must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.  Unfortunately, there is not always a way to fully understand the extent of any negligence until research can be done, and if possible, some discovery documents can be obtained. The best thing a potential plaintiff should do is to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to see if he or she has a valid claim.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Legionnaire’s disease is caused by inhaling legionella bacteria.  Symptoms of the disease include the following within two to 10 days following initial exposure:

  • Headache
  • Muscle Pain
  • Chills
  • Fever which can be 104 degrees or higher
  • Cough with mucous of blood
  • Chest pain
  • Stomach problems
  • Confusion and other mental changes

If you are suffering from these symptoms, you should seek prompt medical attention.

If you have suffered injury on another’s property, contact an experienced injury attorney.

If you are injured in Boston, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Disneyland shuts down cooling towers over Legionnaires’ cases, November 13, 2017, By Susannah Cullinane, CNN

More Blog Entries:
Summer Swimming Pool Safety in New England, May 15, 2014, Boston Personal Injury Lawyer Blog