Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sandler v. Commonwealth case brief

Sandler v. Commonwealth case summary
644 N.E.2d 641 (Mass. 1995)
Tort Law

PROCEDURAL HISTORY: Plaintiff claimant brought an action against defendant Commonwealth for injuries incurred while bicycling on government land. The judgment was entered for the claimant in the Superior Court Department (Massachusetts). The Commonwealth appealed.

-The claimant was injured when he fell off his bicycle while attempting to pass through a tunnel.
-The jury concluded that the claimant fell due to an uncovered drain in the unlit tunnel.
-In its analysis, the court first defined wanton or reckless conduct.
-The court reasoned that the Commonwealth was aware of the risk of harm created by a chronically unlit tunnel, and that the cover of the particular drain that caused the accident was frequently stolen. -The Commonwealth knew that the lack of a drain cover posed a danger to individuals.
-The evidence showed that the Commonwealth did not respond reasonably to the danger.
-The Commonwealth had no policy for bikeway inspection, no record of the existence or replacement of drain covers, the design of the lighting in the tunnel was deficient, and the Commonwealth did not have replacement covers on hand.


-However, despite these findings, the court found that the degree of the risk of injury did not meet the standard established for recklessness.
-As a result, the court held that judgment notwithstanding the verdict should have been granted to the Commonwealth.


-Reckless failure to act involves an intentional or unreasonable disregard of a risk that presents a high degree of probability that substantial harm will result to another. The risk of death or grave bodily injury must be known or reasonably apparent, and the harm must be a probable consequence of the defendant's election to run that risk or of his failure reasonably to recognize it.

CONCLUSION: The court reversed the judgment entered for the claimant.

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