On Labor Day, the plaintiff, an 11-year-old boy, and three additional children, including the plaintiff’s 8-year-old brother, were innocently playing on the grounds of a public grammar school. The school was right located down the street from the plaintiff’s home in the city of Methuen, Massachusetts. The boys began playing within a large dumpster enclosure that was not blocked off or secured by a gate or in any other way. While the four boys were playing within the large dumpster enclosure, a 1,600-pound unhinged gate, which had been left leaning against the inside wall of the enclosure, suddenly and without warning fell on the two brothers. The weight of the unhinged gate and the force at which it fell left one boy seriously injured. Unfortunately, one of the brothers was killed after the unhinged gate fell directly on top of him.
The plaintiff’s family filed a personal injury and wrongful death claim against the city of Methuen, Massachusetts, which was the party responsible for maintaining safe conditions on the grounds of the public elementary school. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendant was liable for the accident because they should not have left the unhinged gate in a position where it could have easily fallen on someone. The defendant, the city of Methuen, admitted it was liable in the accident. The city acknowledged that they should not have left the gate unsecured in an area that was easy to access and that would likely attract children on the property.
The plaintiff’s family suffered significant losses due to this accident. Not only was one of their sons seriously injured, but the other was killed as a result of the city’s negligence. On May 12, 2009, the city of Methuen agreed to pay $600,000 to the plaintiff’s family for the death of their older son, and for the injuries suffered by the surviving brother. This compensation was also intended to cover other family losses caused by the accident. The case was settled out of court during pretrial negotiations. This settlement was the maximum amount of damages the plaintiff’s family could recover under Massachusetts law. Claims against two other defendants in the lawsuit are pending, so it is possible that the plaintiff’s family will be able to recover additional compensation for their losses.
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