, Salem, MA


March 11, 2013

Letter: Too many have lost sight of the tort law system


With respect to Mr. Pelletier, he is 75 years old and a lifelong resident of the North Shore area who was a successful businessman and continues to work part time. He is not litigious. He is diabetic and has only partial feeling in his feet. The ramp at issue was the only means of access to the pool area at the Danversport Yacht Club, where many persons walk around barefoot on hot summer days. On that day, Mr. Pelletier visited the pool with his 8-year-old granddaughter. The ramp was not solid, exposed metal as suggested in your article, but made of metal strips alternating with a rough material for traction, which would not suggest that it could cause burns. Mr. Pelletier did not realize he burned his feet until he had reached the end of the ramp. By then, he had sustained second-degree burns to the soles of both his feet; one later became infected. His medical expenses alone resulting from this injury were in excess of $15,000.

In an analogous context, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has investigated thermal burns resulting in playground equipment. The CPSC reported hundreds of children who received second- and third-degree burns on their hands, legs or buttocks from playground-surfacing materials, most notably metal slides that many of us may remember from our childhood. As the result of the work of the CPSC and ensuing lawsuits, manufacturers have adopted safer alternative surfaces or provided protective coverings.

This is the point of our tort law system — to compensate persons injured by negligence and pressure safety changes that will benefit the public at large. In this case, the ramp at issue could have been made safe for all with the installation of a cover at minimum cost, and a warning could also have prevented injury. I am proud and honored to represent Mr. Pelletier in his lawsuit and to continue to hold large corporations and insurance companies accountable, one case at a time.

Attorney Michael F. Mahoney


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