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Nick Carter offers expert analysis on MA Appeals Court decision allowing trip-and-fall case to proceed despite ‘trivial’ defect

Nick Carter provided expert analysis in a news article highlighting a recent Massachusetts Appeals Court decision allowing a trip-and-fall personal injury claim to proceed to trial, even though the defendant construction contractor asserted that the half-inch defect that allegedly caused the accident was “insubstantial” as a matter of law.

The plaintiff, an elderly woman who tripped and fell in a crosswalk, claims that her foot caught on a granite block that protruded a half inch above the first of two courses of asphalt that the construction company had laid in repaving the street.

The Appeals Court, in reversing a lower court decision dismissing the negligence claim, ruled that the proper focus is not just on the height of the protrusion but more broadly “on whether the defect is so minor or insubstantial that a reasonable person would not have anticipated injury and guarded against it.”

Other relevant factors at issue in the case, according to the court, were the contractor’s knowledge of the protruding lip of the granite margin and its delay in laying more asphalt to eliminate it.

Mr. Carter told Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly that the case should go to trial because “the construction company knew of the defect and had plans to correct it but delayed for no good reason.”

He also noted that a jury will likely view the plaintiff sympathetically because she was walking with her granddaughter at the time of her fall.

“If you’re injured walking with your granddaughter, that increases the sympathy factor,” Mr. Carter said. “Grandparents and grandchildren walking together is something people want to see happen in society.  She won’t be viewed as a distracted, blameworthy plaintiff for that reason.”

A partner at the firm, Mr. Carter has broad civil litigation practice, including personal injury matters.