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Funeral home negligence - Trip and fall - Funeral home allegedly directs mourner along dangerous path to graveside - Rotator cuff injury.

Suffolk County, MA

The plaintiff in this negligence case fell at a cemetery after a funeral, allegedly sustaining a rotator cuff injury which required surgery. She claimed that the defendant was responsible for her fall because it negligently directed her to follow a path over uneven, sunken ground to a graveside service. The defendant denied that it was negligent in selecting the path, and argued that the plaintiff’s injuries were exaggerated.

The plaintiff, a woman in her seventies, attended a funeral in Medford, Massachusetts, in March. Despite freezing conditions, the deceased was buried in a graveside service. At the cemetery, the mourners walked for forty-five feet through the cemetery to the grave via a route shown to them by ushers from the funeral home. The funeral home did not place a carpet or boards on the pathway. The plaintiff claimed that the route was bumpy and uneven due to subsidence of freezing ground around the margins of recent gravesites, causing her to fall into a deep hole and traumatically injure her right shoulder.

Six months later, while shucking corn, the plaintiff suffered a torn rotator cuff in her other shoulder, which she claimed was also a result of her fall at the cemetery. In her lawsuit, she alleged that she incurred $________ in medical expenses, including the cost of surgery on her right shoulder, as a result of the fall.

The defendant denied that the route taken by the plaintiff through the cemetery was pocked with large holes or troughs. At trial, cemetery workers testified that there had been no burials that winter in the area of the path taken by the plaintiff and other mourners; therefore, there was no recently dug ground to subside. The defense presented photographs taken by a friend of the plaintiff the day after the accident which showed that there were no deep holes where the plaintiff had fallen, and presented testimony from cemetery workers who stated that the deepest depressions in the ground along the route were only six to ten inches deep. Defense counsel argued that the plaintiff exaggerated her injuries, and illustrated that point by introducing a tort claims notice letter the plaintiff had sent to the city stating that the plaintiff had been injured after falling into an abyss so deep that she nearly disappeared from view.

The jury entered a verdict for the defense.

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