Slip-and-fall defense takes a spill

Law of the Land

In December 2002, Emanuel Papadopoulos drove into and parked his car in the parking lot next to the Target department store at the Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers, Mass.

Though it was not snowing or raining at the time, the temperature was below freezing and the snow had been recently plowed into a pile on the median next to the disabled parking space in which Papadopoulos parked.

Papadopoulos did his shopping at Target, then returned to the parking lot where he slipped and fell on ice that had naturally accumulated on the pavement, which had either refrozen from melted runoff or had simply slipped off the snow pile on the median.

Under well-settled Massachusetts law, property owners could not be held liable for personal injuries incurred by visitors and guests to their property that arise from the owners’ "failure to remove natural accumulations of snow and ice." Because this rule of law was unique among snowy New England states, it was widely referred to as "the Massachusetts rule."