Notice Requirement for Slip and Falls on Private Property



Did you know that there is a requirement in Massachusetts that you provide a property owner with written notice of a fall caused by snow or ice within 30 days of your accident? If you don’t comply with this statute your case could be dismissed.

This week I had to defend against a Summary Judgment motion brought by the Defendant. The Defendant was arguing that my client, who didn’t hire my firm until after the thirty day deadline, had failed to provide timely notice and therefore the Court should dismiss all claims against it.

Fortunately, we prevailed and the Court denied the motion. However, it would have been much easier had the client approached us immediately after the accident so that we could have protected his claim and his rights.

My client was fortunate since several Massachusetts courts have found against Plaintiff’s who failed to comply with the notice requirement.

On January 24, 2019, an appellate court upheld a finding for the Defendant stating that the relevant statute does not excuse late notice even if a Plaintiff cannot ascertain the correct owner’s identity.  Sarrouf v. City of Boston, No. 18-P-565, 2019 WL 303033 (Mass. App. Ct. Jan. 24, 2019).  In that case, the plaintiff injured herself when she stepped on an uneven depression in the road.  Despite notifying the city of Boston of her claim within the requisite time period of thirty days, she later discovered that the Boston Gas Company was the responsible party.  Unfortunately, by then three months had passed.

Despite arguing that it was virtually impossible to know that the gas company was responsible, and not the city, within the first thirty days of the accident, the appeals court still affirmed the dismissal of her lawsuit.

The court stated that the statute did not include an exception for a situation in which the responsible party is not reasonably ascertainable within the 30-day period.  The Court reasoned that since there was already an exception to the rule – “if by reason of physical or mental incapacity it is impossible for the person injured to give the notice within the time required” – then the Legislature must have intentionally refrained from creating additional exceptions.

If you are hurt in any type of accident, you should contact an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as you can to make sure you’re protected.

If you have any questions on this or any other personal injury matter, please feel free to contact me.

I am available to speak by phone at my office 781-599-5001 or cell phone 978-852-0914. I can also be reached via email at william@michaelmahoneylaw.com.

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