Court: Tourists who trip and fall inside Old North Church shouldn't even think about suing

Old North Church

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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    Comments

    So

    By on

    No undeserved lottery payout for you. Nice try though.

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    So there!

    By on

    I love it when the courts use total common sense and get it right. I'm sorry the woman was injured, but it really seems like she was trying to trump it up if she had to resort to claiming that somehow she paid, when clearly she didn't.

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    30

    Maybe she couldn't see where she was going

    Perhaps they should put up some bollards ...

    Seriously, though, there are a fair number of older people who don't (or can't afford to) see an eye doctor on a yearly basis or otherwise don't realize that they are having problems going from light to dark environments or seeing a detail that isn't color coded.

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    10

    Bollards?

    By on

    This is inside the church, going from the aisle into the pew. You have to open a wooden door that's about 3 feet high and then go through an opening that's less than two feet wide. If you put a bollard there, then no one would be able to enter.

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    14

    (In)appropriate ad?

    By on

    Here's what the automated algorithm that decides what ads to display is giving me, when I look at this page:

    Injury Attnys Hanover,MA
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    No Fee Unless We Win!- Hanover, MA Aggressive Lawyers on the S. Shore

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    12

    But she did win

    By on

    Suing a church for something like this gets you a free one-way ride to hell!

    Seriously - sorry you got hurt, but trying to get money from a church - one of the most historically significant in the country no less - that's kind enough to let visitors in for free?

    This is why we can't have nice things.

    I love taking people there and I hope things like this doesn't eventually sour them on visitors.

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    16

    Not a chance! I go there; we

    By on

    Not a chance! I go there; we know how lucky we are and how important the church is as a secular place. I'm really glad we aren't going to be bankrupted by our carpet that's the same color as every other Episcopal church out there...and also? The pews are NOT carpeted. Her vision must be abnormally terrible.

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    On the contrary, the Rec. Use Statute OPENS nice things to us.

    By on

    Without the Recreational Use Statute, no private landowner in her/his/its right mind (and this includes, e.g., the Trustees of Reservations (think Crane Beach), Audubon Society, Historic New England (f/k/a SPNEA), Friends of Post Office Square (Leventhal Park at Post Office Square!), etc., etc.) would open her/his/its lands/facilities to the general public.

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    11

    There's something else wrong here

    By on

    I am baffled by how tripping on a kneeler could result in an injury requiring surgery and rehabilitation that would not be covered almost entirely by Medicare. Even taking into account that the woman was elderly, and possibly fracture prone (as many of us are/can anticipate being), to accrue "significant medical expenses that were not covered" by her insurance leads me to think that she sought medical treatment that was not referred by her primary physician. If she was travelling with a senior group, she was likely on Medicare which is actually quite good, and certainly would cover all of an emergency room visit and most of her x-rays, et al.

    Considering the injury triggering this case occurred in 2006, that is a long time to pursue a suit. Unfortunately, some snake oil practitioners are still around, and they like to target older people. Who knows in this case, but "rehabilitation" can cover a world of nonsense in addition to real rehab.

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