, Salem, MA

Local News

April 11, 2014

Beverly case sets precedent

Supreme Judicial Court rules on what constitutes a 'building'


That’s because the ruling issued yesterday also rejected the argument of the Weavers’ lawyers that the concept of strict liability applied only in cases where someone is fleeing a fire and said that it applies for anyone injured due to a building code violation — at least if it’s in a structure the law considers to be a “building.”

“We’ve lost a battle but won a war,” said Muggeo, a lawyer who handles cases on behalf of injured plaintiffs.

The case had been closely watched by insurance companies and attorneys for both plaintiffs and property owners, as well as the Boston Housing Authority, and a number of “friend of the court” briefs were filed in the case arguing one side or the other.

A number of attorneys who represent developers and insurance companies had argued that expanding the concept of strict liability beyond the types of buildings specifically named in the law would leave property owners too vulnerable, especially in the increasingly popular mixed-use residential and commercial developments that have been springing up all over Massachusetts.

Sheehan, a pool maintenance worker, suffered head, back and other injuries in the fall. A neighbor in the second-floor apartment heard him stumbling, dropping his keys, and then, moments later, loud groans.

Muggeo said Sheehan has recovered and returned to work.

He will get to keep the portion of the jury’s verdict for his landlords’ negligence, $145,000 plus interest.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.






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