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Commonwealth v. Welansky

Massachusetts Supreme Court
316 Mass. 383 (1944)


Barnett Welansky (defendant), through a corporation called New Cocoanut Grove, Inc., operated a nightclub in Boston. Welansky took all the profits from the business and ran it as his personal business. Welansky spent most evenings at the nightclub and supervised the business. On busy evenings, the night club could have as many as about 1,000 customers inside. The nightclub had two primary entrances and exits. There were five emergency exits, but none of them were easily accessible or visible. Several of the emergency exits were locked with a key lock or blocked. One busy Saturday evening, while Welansky was in the hospital recovering from an illness, there were about 1,000 customers in the club. A bar boy was directed to change a light bulb near an artificial palm tree. The bar boy used a match to see the bulb, and the flame from the match caught the palm tree on fire. The fire quickly spread, and many of the customers were unable to get out of the club. Numerous customers and employees died as a result of the fire. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts (plaintiff) charged Welansky with manslaughter. The jury convicted Welansky, and he appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Lummus, J.)

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