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Negligence lawsuit by tenant of another condo unit (not owned by me) Negligence, Other Injury

Discussion in 'Accidents, Injuries, Negligence' started by DesperateForLegalHelp, Jun 7, 2016.

  1. DesperateForLegalHelp

    DesperateForLegalHelp Law Topic Starter Guest

    Jurisdiction:
    Massachusetts
    Currently I am being sued, by a tenant occupying a first floor unit, for negligence. The plaintiff allegedly slipped and fell in the unit due to water infiltration in her bathroom originating from my bathroom, on the 3rd floor. The actual leak originated under the tub, and per condo docs, it is considered common area. Additionally, there was a notice sent out to all unit owners stating that if damage was incurred due to a leak from a different unit, your own master insurance would have to cover the loss, not he one pertaining to the unit causing the damage. One other point of interest is that the repairs were completed the same day as the notification of the problem, there were no visible problems within the unit, and the repairs were completed from the unit below. At no point was there ever a mention of someone having fell. The first notice arrived 6 months later from the plaintiff's attorney. I am also being cross-claimed by the condo association and management group. I paid for the repairs to the leak and the repairs to wall for two separate units, including the one where the alleged incident occurred. The case is in superior court due to the amount the tenant is looking to be compensated. The owner of the unit where the alleged fall occurred in not mentioned in the lawsuit. I attempted to file a motion to dismiss, pro se, but since I am not a lawyer, and cannot afford a lawyer, and it was denied by the judge, do to lack of knowledge of the correct process. I believe now that the motion to dismiss was denied, I have to provide an answer to the plaintiff and have 10 days from the denial to do so, which would mean I need to send it in this week. I am looking for some help on how to proceed, or some referrals to pro-Bono lawyers or LAR Lawyers at reduced fee. I don't own any property, and am living on social security income, not sure what else I can do. The last lawyer I contacted agreed to look at the case and I have not heard back since even though I have left several messages. Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks!
     
  2. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    Then I can safely conclude that you are a renter and that you don't have renter's insurance.

    If you can't find an attorney because you have no money or you can't find a senior legal aid office to help, you have the option of ignoring the whole thing and letting it go to a default judgment.

    Your Social Security is exempt from judgment and there is federal law protecting direct deposit of your SS checks in your bank account so you could be judgment proof.

    Of course, your credit score will take a hit and you'll have collection agencies bothering you. You might even get evicted by the owner of your unit.

    Or, you can google "how to defend a negligence lawsuit" and see how that works for you.

    If none of that bothers you, the choice is yours.
     
  3. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    Your defense is that the plaintiff is suing the wrong party.
    You're a renter.
    Read your lease.
    Unless you INTENTIONALLY caused the leak, you're not liable.

    The owner should be named as the defendant.

    You need to discuss with a lawyer how you extract yourself from this mess, and get the target painted on your landlord's back.

    Talk to a few local lawyers how best to approach that ask.
    Hire one to do it for you.
    You might wish to start your search for a new abode, as your LL probably will resent your knowledge.

    So, until you can get things in motion, STFU, if asked.

    No comment works wonderfully, try using it from this point forward.


    One last thought to ponder.

    A plaintiff must PROVE their assertions/allegations.

    I don't see how any plaintiff could prove this event transpired, or that the nexus was some unsubstantiated water originating from the unit you're RENTING.

    Furthermore, no one can PROVE you we're home when this UNSUBSTANTIATED even ALLEGEDLY occurred.

    HINT: DNA testing can't even tie the water to you, OP.

    Your blabbing and yammering can, however.

    No comment.
     
    S&Jm82001 likes this.
  4. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    Should read: Unless you INTENTIONALLY or NEGLIGENTLY caused the leak, you're not liable.

    It's not that simple.

    The term "burden of proof" has been used loosely to cover two types of burdens. The first is the burden of persuasion. In a civil case, that is the burden of the plaintiff to pursuade the fact finder (the jury or judge as the case may be) that he has met the elements of his claim by a preponderance of the evidence, i.e. that his version of the facts is more likely than not the correct version. This burden typically does not shift. It is this burden to which the term burden of proof, used properly, should refer.

    The burden of production is the burden of going forward with evidence on a particular issue. Thus, the plaintiff initially has the burden of production to bring forth evidence supporting his claim (i.e. to make a prima facie case). If he does that, then the burden of production will shift to the defendant to bring forth evidence to rebut the claim made by the plaintiff.

    If the defendant does not properly respond to the lawsuit or does not properly respond to the plaintiff's "proof" the defendant risks losing the case.
     
  5. DesperateForLegalHelp

    DesperateForLegalHelp New Member

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    Thanks for all the replies. One point I was not clear on is that I owned the top floor unit at the time, but not the unit where the alleged fall occurred.
     
  6. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    So, you were NOT renting the unit, you owned it?
    You owned property and did not maintain insurance, right?
    Big problem, in most cases.
    I wouldn't worry about this case, however.



    Okay, I still wouldn't worry.

    If you take it to trial, try the case before a jury.

    I suspect if you hire a lawyer, that might cause the plaintiff to try and settle.
    If not, the court will require both sides to discuss if a settlement is possible.

    If you have been served, or do get served, I'll review the pleadings and advise you pro bono, as to if you have need to be unconcerned, or have great concern.

    However, I could die tonight.
    You need to see at least THREE attorneys ASAP.
    Take all documents related to this case with you.
    See what you can learn.

    In the meantime, tread water, you're not on the FBI Most Wanted list.
    This is a lousy civil suit.

    In summation, I see little to be concerned about currently.
    It appears someone else failed to have proper insurance.

    Be smarter now, obtain good insurance to protect yourself.
    Had you had a simple $1,000,000 umbrella policy, you'd be smiling tonight.
     
    DesperateForLegalHelp likes this.
  7. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    .
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    Please, don't instruct me in the intricacies of the law, its interpretations, trial practices, trial procedures, etc...

    Thank you.
     
    cynthiag likes this.
  8. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    I'm not.

    I'm instructing the poster.
     
  9. DesperateForLegalHelp

    DesperateForLegalHelp New Member

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    Well reading your responses makes me feel less worried about it. Though I would rather get it resolved then have a default judgement against me.

    Some clarification points:

    - I owned the 3rd floor unit.

    - I was covered under the condo master insurance for matters relating to my unit (part of my monthly dues). BUT the master's insurance states that each owner is responsible for the damages/losses within their unit.

    - The alleged fall did not occur inside my unit - it happened in a 1st floor unit, the tenant fell, not the owner. Again, the unit owner of that unit is not named in the suit.

    - The cause of the leak is considered common area, per master deed (plumbing was within the wall between my unit and the unit below, not inside of the unit).

    - talked to 4 different lawyers and cannot afford the cost of representation, which is why I attempted a dismissal pro se.

    It would most likely be less expensive to lose the case, then to pay a private lawyer. If only civil cases worked like criminal, where you are entitled to a public defender if you cannot afford a lawyer.
     
  10. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    Desperate, are you being sued in a court above small claims?

    Just curious.

    You can appear, hear the plaintiff's case, ask for dismissal after the plaintiff presented his/her case:


    (6) Failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.


    If that fails, you simply present your defense.
    You'll be allowed a little leeway because you're not an attorney, if the case is in a court above small claims.

    There is a great deal of help available online provided by your state government to help you prepare.

    Here's an example:

    Massachusetts Civil Procedure Rule 12: Defenses and Objections

    Just be logical, and illustrate why the defendant's alleged damages aren't attributable to you.

    If he/she alleges they are, he/she must tie the damages to you.
     
  11. DesperateForLegalHelp

    DesperateForLegalHelp New Member

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    Yes, the case is in superior court, plantiff is looking for $30K+ in medical expenses.

    At the dismissal hearing, the judge was more lenient, but he advised that it was unlikely I could win without a lawyer due to the complexity of the case. Let me remind you that the co-defendants have filed a cross-claim against me.

    Because the basis to prove the plaintiff failed to state a claim was not properly presented (again, I'm not a lawyer), the judge could not take it into consideration and therefore declared that the plantiff did state a claim.

    It appears to be a win win for everyone involved except me. The Plantiff will most likely only have to pay the attorney if they win, and the co-defendants have pushed the blame to me (and all parties have lawyers, except for me).

    I've been trying to use some of the resources available but a lot of it is in technical terms and therefore somewhat confusing.
     
  12. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    It's your call as to how you respond.

    I'd hire a lawyer.

    With $30K at stake, I'd find myself a lawyer for $5K, somehow.

    Contact nearby law schools.

    In some cases, law schools provide assistance to teach budding young legal eagles.

    Have you tried these entities:

    Mass Legal Services

    Legal Resource Finder - Find Legal Aid | Mass Legal Services

    Community Legal

    MassLegalHelp | Promoting justice in Massachusetts with legal information

    Home - Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation

    Legal Aid Programs - Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation

    Greater Boston Legal Services | Providing free noncriminal legal assistance for poor people in Greater Boston

    Lawyers and Legal Services: Finding a Lawyer in Massachusetts

    SOUTH COASTAL COUNTIES LEGAL SERVICES, INC. (SCCLS)

    Need Legal Help - Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association
     
    S&Jm82001 likes this.
  13. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    I'll guarantee that you misunderstood something very important if that convinced you not to buy a unitowners policy.

    Didn't you think that contradiction was something you should have looked into?

    Could have happened across town any you could still have been sued for negligence.

    Not sure why you point that out. The plaintiff has the option of who to sue and who to not sue.

    Again you are misunderstanding something important. Your CC&Rs likely define plumbing that services your unit as part of the definition of the unit even though that part of the system is outside your 4 walls.

    You haven't actually answered the insurance question but I conclude that you didn't have any.

    As I mentioned earlier, given your financial situation and that you are on SS, you have the option of ignoring the lawsuit and let it go to default. Then contemplate bankruptcy to get rid of the judgment. Simple bankruptcy costs less than $2000 with a lawyer and only a few hundred without one and there's a lot less risk filing bankruptcy without a lawyer than defending a negligence case without one.

    Makes you the blindfolded guest of honor at a firing squad.
     
  14. DesperateForLegalHelp

    DesperateForLegalHelp New Member

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    Normally, when the master's insurance does't cover "walls-in" the bank will require you to puchase an HO-6 policy, and this was not the case.


    The way it works is, if damage is caused to your unit, you, as the owner, needs to pay the deductible. The notice from management says, "You cannot go after the unit owner that caused the damages for reimbursement". Which leads to why I mentioned that the unit owner is not on the lawsuit. It's their master insurance claim that would cover their unit. Also, water doesn't just happen to leak through walls, first it stains the ceiling/walls, then it becomes moist, and then the water infiltrates, not sure why a possible leak wasn't reported prior to the day of the incident, given the descriptions of the damages, it should've been apparent sooner (just my thought, anyways).


    True...

    Because of the way the masters insurance coverage works.

    The documents state "leading up to AND within the unit" are the unit owner's responsibility and "between the walls and servicing the building (including units)" are common area.
    No other insurance.

    Thank you for your input, very helpful in determining my next course of action.
     
  15. DesperateForLegalHelp

    DesperateForLegalHelp New Member

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    Thank you! Reached out to a couple of these places, hopefully they take these types of cases or can refer me somewhere that does.
     
  16. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    Pity.

    For a couple of hundred a year for an HO-6 you wouldn't be "desperateforlegalhelp."

    I've handled thousands of condo water damage claim and read the CC&Rs for all of them and I'll just tell you that your assumptions that lead you to not by insurance were all wrong, and I'll let it go at that.
     

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