As today’s Globe reminds us (hat tip to Ted Frank at Point of Law for bringing the story to my attention), tonight’s blizzard will be the first large snowfall that we’ve seen since the Supreme Judicial Court abolished the so-called “natural accumulation” rule in a decision that was issued while we were enjoying the warmth of the July sun.
I’ve been meaning to blog about all the recent coverage that the case – Papadopoulos v. Target Corporation – has received in the local media. While Brian MacQuarrie’s Globe piece gets the law right, some of the coverage has bordered on the sensationalistic. For example, the other day I heard a teaser on my beloved WBUR (our local NPR affiliate) intoning that the case “eliminates virtually every excuse” that a landowner can offer to avoid liability in a slip-and-fall case involving ice and snow.
As I blogged in August, the case simply brings Massachusetts law into line with the common law of every other American jurisdiction by abolishing an archaic rule that lawyers called the “natural accumulation doctrine.” Prior to the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in Papadopoulos, judicial opinions in other states referred to the natural accumulation doctrine as “the Massachusetts rule” because we were the only state to have a rule stating that property owners were not liable for injuries arising from the natural accumulation of snow and ice.
Under the new rule adopted in Papadopoulos, property owners will have a duty to use reasonable care in the removal of snow and ice from their property. That’s it. End of story. Finito. Henceforth we’ll follow the same legal rule as the other forty-nine states in our Union. That’s the big change that the local media are breathless about.
If you are the type of person who is interested in arcane developments in the law of slip-and-fall injuries in Massachusetts, you can read my original, more in-depth blog post about the changes in the law of snow-and-ice removal by clicking here.
This blog is maintained by the Boston slip-and-fall lawyers at The Law Office of Alan H. Crede. The blog neither contains nor offers legal advice.