The Massachusetts Appeals Court ruled today that the group that runs free tours of Old North Church is not liable for the injuries a Georgia tourist suffered when she tripped on a pew riser in 2006, because it's covered under a state law that exempts sites that offer free access or tours from injury liability.
In her lawsuit, Linda Patterson argued that the tour was not actually free, both because the Old North Foundation of Boston, Inc. pays Old North Church an annual fee to run the tours - which it tries to recoup through sales in an attached gift shop - and because she and her husband paid $1,738 to her local senior center for a tour that also included sites in Virginia, Connecticut and New York.
Nope, the court said: The Pattersons paid nothing directly to enter Old North Church. They did not contribute to the annual fee paid by the foundation - they got in for free - and neither did the organizers of the tour they were on.
The court continued that the fact that the riser carpet and the floor carpet were the same color - which Patterson said led to her misstep - did not violate the state consumer-protection law because there was no evidence the foundation or the church matched the colors to stir up business.
Here, the Pattersons' claim that the defendants' renovations, which included the "placement of carpet that effectively hid the similarly-colored tripping hazard" in the pew risers was "part of the Defendants' efforts to run the money-making tourist attraction," is not supported by the record. There is no evidence that the condition of the pew box risers or choice of red paint or red carpet provided a business incentive for the defendants. Linda fell in the church sanctuary while participating in a free tour. Nothing in the record suggests that any possible negligence by the defendants related to an entrepreneurial aspect of the church or foundation.
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FROM THE FOOD UPRISINGS in the early 1700s to the notorious antibusing riots in the mid-1970s,...