Articles Posted in Strict Liability

On April 10, 2014, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, in Sheehan v. Weaver, held that owners/occupiers of certain buildings, as described under G.L. c. 143, § 51, are strictly liable for injuries caused by building code violations. The ruling applies to places of assembly and by the terms of the statute to special halls, public halls, factories, workshops, manufacturing establishments and “building[s]” as construed by the Court. As noted in the decision, “building” as used in the statute is narrowly defined. Single-family homes, owner-occupied two-family homes, and small scale residential structures would not be “buildings” covered by the ruling. The determining factor is not whether property use is “commercial” or “public.” Rather, the focus under the ruling is whether the property at issue is a place at which large numbers of people gather for occupational, entertainment, or other purposes. Such places must have been designed for continuing public assembly.
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