Can homeowner be held liable to guests for injuries caused by third parties?

 The Massachusetts Appeals Court recently addressed this exact issue as it related to a guest who was struck in the back of the head by a softball while visiting a friend’s home. The plaintiff was seated on the defendants’ deck while other guests engaged in a softball game including one of the defendant homeowners. The softball game took place in close proximity to the deck where the plaintiff was seated. As the game progressed one ball was hit onto the roof above the porch. After that ball went astray, the defendant homeowner asked the participants to hit the ball down, to bunt and/or to swing half way when making contact with the ball. Shortly thereafter, the plaintiff was struck in the back of the head with the softball hit by another guest.

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit alleging the defendant homeowner was negligent of the safety of his guests resulting in a premises liability because he organized and participated in the game. The defendant, homeowners filed a Motion for Summary Judgment alleging they owed no duty to the plaintiff (their guest) under these circumstances. A Massachusetts Superior Court allowed the defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment. The plaintiff appealed the decision.

Massachusetts law does not typically hold homeowners liable for the conduct of other persons who cause a personal injury at their home. The difference in this case, however, was the homeowners’ ownership of the equipment and the homeowners’ right to control the use of the equipment which placed them in a position of authority to which a duty attached. The Appeals Court held that the defendant homeowners owed a duty to the plaintiff because the defendant homeowners:(1) owned the softball equipment; (2) had the right to control the use of the equipment; (3) were present and aware the equipment was being used; and (4) were aware of the danger to the guests on the porch given that one ball was hit onto the roof above the porch. The Appeals Court remanded the case back to the Superior Court. In doing so, the Appeals Court noted that the ultimate issue of whether the defendant homeowners are liable for the plaintiff’s injuries must be left to the fact finder (i.e., a judge or jury).

If you or someone you know has been injured or killed in an accident, contact the Attorneys at Curran & Desharnais, P.C. toll free at 888-682-9194 or by email jkcurran@cdlawpartners.com, for a free confidential case review.

Personal Injury

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