Articles Posted in Premises Liability

Recently here in the Boston area, the media has paid a lot of attention recently to the subject of dangerous off-campus housing for college students – and justifiably so.

Boston is the College Capital of the Nation, and there are more undergraduate and graduate students here than in almost any other part of the country. Against this massive student population, there are only so many campus dorm units – i.e., on-campus housing facilities. Universities here knowingly accept more students than they have the capacity to house on campus. Why? Tuition revenue. The student overflow ends up in apartment buildings in and around the greater Boston area – and these numbers have increased over 30% since just 2006. What’s the problem with this? A huge percentage of those apartment buildings and rental units are located in shoddy, dilapidated, over-crowded and dangerous buildings. Many of them are flagrant examples of numerous Building Code violations relating to both safety and health. Translation: Dumps and fire traps. More than 45,000 students live in these apartment buildings and houses – 99% never having lived on their own previously. Can you say “lambs to the slaughter?”

A great many of these apartments are located in the Allston/Brighton section of Boston – near Boston University and Boston College. Allston is so bad when it comes to dilapidated housing that it has earned the nickname “Rat City,” for the reputation it has for vermin in that part of Boston. Who owns the vast majority of these buildings and apartments? Many of them are absentee landlords – also known as slumlords. Whether it’s old, creaky stairwells that can collapse, causing a dangerous Massachusetts stairwell fall injury, or old, rotted exterior porches and decks that can result in a Massachusetts porch collapse injury, or old, out-of-code electrical wiring that can cause a Massachusetts apartment building fire, the risks are numerous and very serious.

Here’s a local development that happens a lot more around the Boston area than many people realize: Last night (Friday, Sep. 13th), a porch connected to an apartment building collapsed, with several people being injured. The accident happened at 1358 Tremont Street in the Mission Hill section of Boston. The porch was connected to a “3-decker” building, and as is common with these types of events, there was no prior warning – it just gave way. No time to get off before it came tumbling down. – in this case, falling on and crushing the porch immediately below it.

That’s not uncommon in deck collapse accidents: As a Boston porch/deck collapse lawyer, and as a lifelong resident of the Boston area, I can attest to the fact that building conditions in this area are primed for this kind of accident: The area is swimming in old, 3-decker houses and apartment buildings – most have been around since the 1950’s or so. These types of 3-deckers are almost always made of wood, not brick or concrete, and they are exposed to all kinds of weather that leaves them unstable. The result? Most of them are rotting, weak, and unsafe. Put more than a few people at once on them, and you’re risking a lot.

This is a major safety risk in the Boston area. Why? One word: Students. While a great many college students live in university dorms (which are almost 100% brick and mortar buildings that are usually quite safe,) a great many students in the Boston area also live off-campus. And what does that usually mean? Cheap housing – which is very older, often out of code, and – to be quite frank – dumps. The Allston-Brighton, Kenmore Square, Fenway, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, Roxbury and Mission Hill areas are notorious for having these kinds of 50+ and 60+ year-old wooden structures, which are very dangerous. Many of them are owned by slumlords, and are fire traps as well as places where Boston stairwell accidents and Boston deck collapse accidents occur more than just occasionally.

Summer is usually a time when thoughts turn to cooling off and leisurely days around a swimming pool (especially during heat waves such as we’ve had here in Massachusetts recently.) That makes perfect sense, but in my view as a Massachusetts swimming pool accident lawyer, not enough people are aware of the dangers of backyard swimming pools – whether in-ground or above-ground. In my career, some of the worst injuries I have seen involve swimming pool injuries. They can pose serious, and even deadly, hazards.

This was recently made clear in the past few weeks, as more than one person has died in Massachusetts swimming pool accidents. These unfortunate events illustrate the inherent risks that are associated with swimming pools. Whether the pool is an in-ground pool or an above-ground portable pool, as a Boston drowning accident attorney, I can assure you they are dangerous.

Tragedies like this illustrate the need to be aware of the dangers that swimming pools represent. In a great many of these types of cases, the injuries and drowning deaths that occur are sustained by children. This is so for a variety of reasons:

Binland Lee was 22 years old and set to graduate from Boston Univeristy later this month. Tragically, she is dead today, killed last Sunday, April 28 2013, in a three-alarm fire that tore through her apartment in Allston. Beyond Ms. Lee’s fatality, nine additional residents and another six firefighters suffered injuries in the blaze. According to the Boston Fire Department, the fire was started by careless smoking. The Suffolk County District Attorney’s office is investigating to determine if criminal charges are warranted in the tragedy.

Aside from the possibility of careless smoking, there is an equal if not greater concern here: The dilapidated state of a great many of apartment buildings in Boston – especially in Allston and Brighton, which are “home” to thousands of BU students every year, who live in off-campus housing. Aside from being a Boston, Massachusetts burn injuries lawyer, I know this very well, because I grew up on the side of Brookline just down the street from these areas. I’ve seen them a million times, and been in them many times in my younger years. To be kind, many of them are one step above a slum: Virtual dumps and firetraps that haven’t been upgraded in decades. In many cases, they’re also overcrowded, housing a greater number of occupants than they legally should be. Liability for injuries sustained in such dilapidated buildings falls under an area of law known as Massachusetts premises liability.

Initially, that may well have been the case in this tragedy. News reports have stated that nineteen persons lived in this building, located at 87 Linden St, Allston. A city of Boston ordinance prohibits more than four unrelated college students from sharing or occupying the same dwelling. As of the date of this post, city officials have stated that no less than six of the 19 residents were students from BU. According to a city Inspectional Services spokesperson, the last time that the building was inspected was in 1992 – 21 years ago – and the building owner was allegedly cited by the city for operating an illegal rooming house. According to Ms. Lee’s uncle, Da Ren Kwong, when her mother visited her in Boston, she expressed concerns about the building’s safety. According to Mr. Kwong, Ms. Lee’s mother saw exposed wires on at least one wall, but Ms. Lee assured her mother all would be well. While the property owner’s lawyer has claimed that the building has passed inspection many times in the ten years his client has owned it, the city Inspectional Services Department disputes that claim, insisting that their records show that the last time the building was inspected was in 1992.

Most burn injury victims suffer these injuries due to a fire of some kind. However, as our burn injuries page makes clear, many times burn injuries occur due to scalding, and these types of burns are usually severe.

This was the case yesterday (April 6 2013,) when three students at the University of New Hampshire were badly burned Saturday afternoon due to a hot water pipe that burst in a dormitory, according to a university spokeswoman. Injuries from pipes that burst coming from a hot water heater, can be especially devastating: The normal water temperature inside a water heater is commonly set at around 160 degrees, and when water this hot hits the skin, it will without doubt cause third-degree burns. According to news reports, that’s exactly what these three female students suffered, as they were in or leaving Hunter Hall, a three-story dorm that houses nearly 115 students. Their burn injuries were so bad that while the burn victims were first taken to local hospitals, they were later transferred to Boston hospitals, due to the severity of their burn injuries.

Following such an accident, most families ask: Is anyone liable for the injuries that the burn injury victim suffered? If so, why, and what type of compensation is possible? As a Boston, Massachusetts burn injury lawyer, I can tell you that the answers to those questions depend on the facts and the circumstances surrounding the event, centrally whether and how much evidence of negligence is present. In this case, possible defendants could include:

It’s only due to sheer luck that there weren’t more people injured in the explosion at the Scores Gentleman’s Club in Springfield, Mass., last week. Apparently, because of reports of a natural gas leak earlier that day, the premises were evacuated and it’s simply a miracle that no one was killed.

The gas explosion occurred last Friday in Springfield, one of New England’s largest cities. It not only leveled the Scores Gentleman’s strip club, it exploded with a noise that reverberated for miles. In its wake, about 12 other buildings were damaged. The explosion happened in an area of downtown Springfield that is filled with commercial properties and residences. The damaging blast blew out all the windows in a three-block area. It left three buildings irreparably damaged and also forced an evacuation of a six-story apartment building that was buckling due to the blast.

At about 4:20 PM earlier in the day, firefighters responded and were investigating the gas leak. The blast happened about one hour later, and seriously injured over 18 people. The cause of the explosion hasn’t been identified yet but is under investigation.

As I reported in my previous post on this subject, amusement park injuries are much more common than most people might think. If you or someone you love has been injured in a Massachusetts amusement-park accident, you may be entitled to financial damages for your injuries. Following below are some typical forms of liability that may serve as the legal basis for damages following several types of injuries that are common to amusement parks:

Product Liability and Defective Products – This refers to whether or not there was a defect in the manufacturing or design of the ride.

Premises Liability – Broken stairs, lack of lighting, gaps in pavement, and parking lot conditions all have to do with premises liability, which is also known as property liability. Slip and fall injuries come under this category.

It’s summer, 2012. And with it comes marketing for more and more amusement park rides, such as the new ride that debuted at Six Flags New England in Agawam, Mass.: The roller coaster “Goliath.” Guests sit beneath the track with their feet dangling as they ascend a tower. Once at the top of the tower, riders drop nearly 20 stories in a vertical free-fall that reaches speeds of 65 miles per hour. Then riders go head-over-heels on the outside of a 102-foot-tall vertical loop, followed by a 110-foot-tall butterfly turn that rockets them up another tower. www.sixflags.com/newengland/index.aspx. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

Except when you take into account the accidents that can happen. Too often, the public attends amusement and theme parks to have a good time, and they don’t consider the kinds of injuries that can occur on these rides. As a Massachusetts amusement-ride injury lawyer, I know all too well the types of personal injuries that can occur. Read on, below. I’ll get to injury statistics about amusement park rides further down in this blog post.

Theme-park injuries and amusement-park injuries can frequently be life-threatening. The personal injuries someone can sustain include whiplash, broken bones, heart attacks, traumatic brain injury, and neck and back injuries. In adition to permanent-construction theme parks like Six Flags and Disney World, there are also many traveling carnivals throughout Massachusetts each summer. Visiting a local carnival that has stopped in your town? Although kids love them, (I certainly remember that I loved them,) I know from professional experience that many of them run electrical wiring on the ground, where almost anyone, especially kids and older people, can trip over them, or walk in the wrong place and suffer an electrical shock. And people should always worry about equipment that is routinely getting taken down – and put back up — as carnivals are basically traveling road shows. Equipment that is so temporary doesn’t really inspire confidence. Worse, this equipment is assembled and reassembled by the least-skilled of workers.

Given the fact that many people belong to health clubs these days, I’m often approached by people about their Massachusetts health club contracts. You see, (if you belong to a gym or health club,) you’ll learn that the standard contract terms that are used for these types of agreements by almost all Massachusetts gyms and health clubs, prevent you as the customer from suing the health club for any injuries suffered on the premises.

These health club injuries can arise from any number of circumstances: A weight dropped on someone, a cable or pulley on a machine that lets go, a slip and fall on a floor or pool area, even swimming pool injuries. You signed the agreement, and now you find that you’ve been injured in some way that you feel is attributable to negligence of the part of the health club. So you’re out of luck, right?

No, you’re not. While 99.9% of businesses try to escape liability by incorporating liability disclaimers like this, not all of them are effective or valid. When it comes to health club memberships in Massachusetts, attempted “Releases of Liability” like these are barred by state statute. Specifically, Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 93, Section 80, which states in relevant part: “No contract for health club services may contain any provisions whereby the buyer agrees not to assert against the seller or any assignee or transferee of the health club services contract any claim or defense arising out of the health club services contract or the buyer’s activities at the health club.”

Harvard University is the crème de la crème of Ivy League schools; an institution that has fostered the best and the brightest.

And now it finds itself caught up in a storm that has to do with a murder in one of its residence halls. And interestingly enough, none of the three men allegedly involved in the Cambridge Massachusetts murder were Harvard students, which has brought about a case of college dormitory negligent security.

Here’s the story. A 21-year-old man named Justin Cosby allegedly entered Kirkland Hall at Harvard University on May 18, 2009. Prosecutors alleged that Mr. Cosby entered the property for the sole purpose of selling a large quantity of marijuana to some people there in the residence hall. A man named Jabrai Copney was convicted in Middlesex Superior Court of the alleged first-degree murder of Mr. Cosby. Mr. Copney was not a Harvard student either, but he had access to Harvard University buildings because he was romantically involved with Harvard Student Brittany Smith, who lived in Lowell House. He apparently lived in Lowell House with Ms. Smith.