Legal Memorandum: Duty of an Owner of the Property in MA

Issue: Under Massachusetts law, what is the standard of care that a management company of a premises owes to any lawful visitor?

Area of Law: Real Estate Law
Keywords: Duty of an owner of property; Standard of care; Management company
Jurisdiction: Massachusetts
Cited Cases: 3 Mass. App. Ct. 765; 385 N.E.2d 528; 10 N.E.2d 115; 330 N.E.2d 495; 292 N.E.2d 863
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 05/01/2000

 The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in Oliveri v. Massachusetts Bay Transp. Auth., 363 Mass. 165, 292 N.E.2d 863 (1973), stated the duty that an owner or other person in control of property has to an invitee as follows:

The obligation of one who controls business premises is to use due care to keep the premises provided for the use of its patrons in a reasonably safe condition, or at least to warn them of any dangers that might arise from such use, which are not likely to be known to them, and of which the defendant knows or ought to know.


Id. at 166-167, 292 N.E.2d at 864 (citations omitted).

Mounsey v. Ellard, 363 Mass. 693, 297 N.E.2d 43 (1973), stands as the landmark case that  extended the duty of care owed by owners, and those in control of property, to all lawful visitors, regardless of their technical classification as licensee or invitee.

In case in which a management company was in control of the property, the court concerns itself with the issue of control, rather than legal ownership of the premises.  See Marsden v. Eastern Gas & Fuel Assocs., 7 Mass. App. Ct. 27, 30-31, 385 N.E.2d 528, 530 (1979) (“one who assumes the control and management of property cannot escape liability for injuries by showing a want of title in himself”).

In Marsden the defendants had deeded over title of a […]

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