Attorney Gerard Donnelly successfully obtained a defense verdict following a 3-day jury trial in Hampden Superior Court. The plaintiff, a tenant in a public housing complex, brought suit against the defendant Housing Authority alleging that she had slipped and fallen in her bathtub due to the lack of non-slip adhesive strips. Shortly before trial, the plaintiff advanced a new theory of liability wherein she claimed that the cleaning supplies needed to treat an ongoing mold condition in the bathroom had eroded the surface of her bathtub, thereby creating a slippery and dangerous condition. The plaintiff claimed injuries to her head and face as a result of her fall.
Prior to trial, Attorney Donnelly filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, arguing that the plaintiff’s claims should be dismissed on several grounds, including that the plaintiff made no prior complaints of an alleged slippery condition; that the plaintiff never requested non-slip adhesive strips or a bath mat from the defendant; that a bathtub becoming slippery during use is an obvious “danger” to a person of ordinary intelligence, and that the plaintiff’s claims of breach of warranty of habitability must fail as the plaintiff did not allege any physical defect to the property. In plaintiff’s Opposition to the Motion for Summary Judgment, plaintiff counsel first asserted a claim of physical defect caused by cleaning products / mold condition. The court denied the defendant’s summary judgment motion and the case proceeded to trial. Attorney Donnelly renewed his arguments in pre-trial motions and further argued that the plaintiff should be precluded from advancing a new theory of liability at such a late date. Moreover, Donnelly argued that plaintiff’s new theory raised technical scientific questions requiring expert testimony and that the plaintiff had failed to raise her new theory in her presentment letter and/or in her Complaint.
The judge denied the bulk of the defendant’s motions. Nonetheless, after three days of testimony and arguments, the jury returned with a verdict in favor of the defendant Housing Authority.